PATNA - Indian police have arrested two brothers accused of repeatedly raping a 22-year-old Japanese tourist over three weeks near Bodh Gaya, Buddhism’s holiest site, an official said Saturday.

The tourist had been held hostage at gunpoint in a secluded underground room close to a pilgrimage site, according to a preliminary investigation. ‘When her health condition deteriorated due to repeated rape and poor living conditions, she was brought to Gaya (district headquarters) for medical treatment on December 20,’ a police officer who is part of the investigation told AFP on condition of anonymity.

But she managed to escape and reached Varanasi where she met some Japanese tourists who helped her contact the Japanese consulate in the nearby city of Kolkata, the officer added. Sajid Khan, 32, and his 25-year-old brother Jawed Khan, both tourist guides, were arrested in the case on Friday, police deputy superintendent Alok Kumar Singh said.

‘We have arrested the duo for confining and raping the Japanese student,’ Singh told AFP by telephone from Bodh Gaya. The Bodh Gaya complex, 110 kilometres (68 miles) south of Bihar state capital Patna, is home to one of the earliest Buddhist temples still standing in India and attracts visitors from all over the world.

The Japanese woman, a university student, had come to Gaya from Kolkata where she had checked into a hotel in November. India has faced intense scrutiny over its efforts to curb violence against women following the fatal gang rape of a medical student in New Delhi in 2012 which sparked global outcry. Since then, several attacks on foreign women have also been reported, leading to a dip in tourist numbers to the country. Last January, a 51-year-old Danish tourist was robbed and gang raped at knife-point in Delhi. In 2013, a Swiss cyclist holidaying in central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh was robbed and gang raped by five men, all of whom were later sentenced to life terms. ‘Nothing in India has changed... All promises and statements made by our leaders and ministers have turned out to be shallow,’ the paper quotes him as saying, in reference to a recent rape case in the capital. A driver of international taxi service Uber allegedly raped a 26-year-old woman in Delhi on 5 December. More cases of rape have been reported throughout the year from different parts of the country.

Papers feel the government’s ant-rape reforms have hit many ‘roadblocks’ and failed to effectively curb gender-based violence. ‘While on paper, landmark reforms have been ushered in, many challenges have cropped up in enforcing them,’ The Times of India of India says in another report.

The paper adds that ‘the standards of investigation and prosecution set’ in the 16 December case have not been ‘replicated in other rape cases’. Lawyer and rights activist Vrinda Grover says that the fast-track courts set up to expedite trials in cases of sexual assault have also been ineffective.

The ‘hollowness of the much-touted fast-track court stands exposed’ as many rape victims still wait for justice, she writes in the Hindustan Times. The Times of India adds that these courts have not been ‘able to deliver desired results’ and also points out ‘massive gaps in policing and governance’. The paper says the Delhi High Court ‘has come face to face with systemic problems plaguing the city police and administration, such as shortage of nearly 15000 police personnel, lack of a large enough PCR police cars fleet.’

Papers also say that the mind-set of the ‘patriarchal’ political class in the country remains incompatible with women’s rights. The DNA points out that the report of the Verma Commission, set up after 16 December 2012 to revisit laws on crimes against women, put the blame squarely on ‘the government, the police and even the public, for its indifference to issues related to gender’.

Following the Delhi gang rape, the 630-page report was completed in 29 days and submitted to the government on 23 January 2013, which eventually led to the passing of new anti-rape laws.

The paper notes that the Commission’s ‘proposals to make stalking and voyeurism punishable crimes’ led to a debate in the parliament where some male legislators made ‘outright sexist statements’. Journalist Pamela Philipose writes in The Indian Express that ‘in time, it became clearer that the panel’s most radical suggestions had been put on ice’.

‘Today, there are not many in government or parliament who refer to the report or show themselves as being cognisant of its recommendations,’ she adds. The Verma Commission, led by ex-chief justice JS Verma, had called for faster trials and longer sentences but stopped short of recommending the death penalty in cases of sexual assault.

Columnist Ranjona Banerji, meanwhile, suggests that the ‘gender discourse’ in the country must change. ‘Although the rapists and murderers in the December 16, 2012, case have been put through the judicial system, the issue of women’s safety still hangs in the balance,’ she writes in the The Asian Age.

Asking what we have learnt since 2012, she points out that ‘in the minds of some, the onus for their security and safety lies solely on women’. ‘We have allowed the gender discourse to become so one-sided that women who go out at night are frowned upon and women who beat up men are celebrated,’ she adds.