Coronavirus

Indian Women Are Being Sexually Assaulted Even While in COVID-19 Isolation

There have been at least four different cases, either of sexual assault or stalking, in July.
28 July 2020, 8:45am
Indian Women Are Being Sexually Assaulted Even While in COVID-19 Isolation
A medical staff wearing a protective facemask arranges a bed inside an isolation ward opened as a preventative measure following a SARS-like virus outbreak, at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Medical Sciences in Ahmedabad on February 4, 2020. Photo for representational purposes only courtesy of Sam Panthaky / AFP

In July, at least three women were allegedly sexually assaulted - two of them were raped - at various COVID-19 isolation facilities across India. A fourth was stalked within a quarantine facility.

VICE News reviewed news reports of these incidents, which took place in three states of the country.

A 30-year-old doctor was arrested on Wednesday, July 22, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh for allegedly sexually assaulting a COVID-19 patient.

The survivor was a 25-year-old woman who works in Delhi, and was admitted to the Deen Dayal Hospital on Monday, July 20, after testing positive for COVID-19 while visiting her family in Aligarh district. Dr Tufail Ahmed attempted to rape her in the hospital’s isolation ward. Ahmed was arrested from a hotel he was isolating at after the patient filed a police complaint. 

The CCTV footage of the isolation ward obtained by the police proved that Ahmed had entered the isolation ward without wearing any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kit or gloves. The police booked him under section 354 (molestation) and 376 (2) (advantage of position to commit rape) of the Indian Penal Code.

Last week, two similar incidents took place at covid care centres, which are isolation facilities for patients who are mildly symptomatic or asymptomatic. 

On July 15, a 14-year-old COVID-19 patient admitted to Delhi’s Sardar Patel Covid Care Centre was allegedly raped by a 19-year-old patient in the bathroom area. 

The teenage girl also claimed that her rapist had asked his 20-year-old friend to stand guard and shoot a video of the rape. The next day, the girl reported the crime to an attendant at the facility, who informed the police.

 The survivor was one of the 250 people currently admitted to the 10,200-bed quarantine facility in the Chhatarpur district of India’s national capital city Delhi. Following the incident, the girl was shifted to a hospital and sent for a medical examination, which confirmed that she had been sexually assaulted.  

This facility, touted as the world’s largest, is a care centre built for patients who don’t have appropriate isolation options in their homes. The girl and the accused both live in slums, and were admitted to this facility along with their relatives. 

When this facility, run by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), was inaugurated on July 5, the ITBP said it would deploy 1,000 security personnel. However, according to Hindustan Times, only 100 security officials worked at the facility in shifts.

On July 17, a man isolated at a building complex designated as a care centre in the western state of Maharashtra’s Navi Mumbai township allegedly raped a 40-year-old female patient. While the man claimed the act was consensual, the woman filed a police complaint saying he had claimed to be a doctor, taken her into the washroom, and covered her mouth so she couldn’t alert anyone. He was arrested on Friday, July 18, under  Sections 376 (rape) and 354 (outraging the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code. 

In the first week of July, two minor boys from the central state of Chhattisgarh were booked for raping a minor girl whom they had lured by promising to provide COVID-19 medications for her family. 

A 29-year-old woman quarantined at the Sinhgad hostel facility in the city of Pune in Maharashtra accused a male staff member of stalking and entering her isolated room. She also said that when she tried alerting the police about this on July 15, they said they could not help her as they didn’t have access to PPE kits. Following the police’s inaction, the woman said she informed authorities at the facility, who also did not take any action. It was only after her cousin filed a police complaint on Monday, July 20, that the incident came to light. 

India reported 33,356 rapes in 2018, according to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau. 

There have been isolated incidents of rape at COVID-19 facilities in some countries, like Kenya and Nigeria

At the beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak, some women had used it to scare off predators. In February, a woman in China coughed and pretended that she had returned from Wuhan and contracted coronavirus to scare off a man just as he was about to attack her. 

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