The Guardia Civil with the suspects on their way to jail. | Lars Ter Meulen

Five French tourists have been arrested on suspicion of gang-raping a 20-year-old Norwegian woman in the Costa Blanca resort of Benidorm, Spanish police said on Thursday.

Sexual violence has gained prominence as an issue in social and political campaigning in Spain in recent years, notably after five Spaniards calling themselves the "Wolf Pack" were accused of gang-raping a young woman at the San Fermin bull-running festival in 2016. Their initial light prison sentences sparked mass protests across the country.

Police said the five French suspects, all male and aged 18 and 19, were taken to court on Thursday, having spent the night in jail following their arrest in the early hours of Wednesday. Court officials could not be reached for comment and it was not immediately clear if the suspects had entered pleas.

Police said they received a call on Wednesday from a local healthcare centre, where two 20-year-old Norwegian women, both living in Spain, had turned for help.

They said they met the French teenagers through social media and then in person in Benidorm, after which the group ended up in the apartment where the suspects were staying.

One of the women left the house after allegedly being sexually abused. It was after that that the woman who stayed behind was allegedly raped, police said.

The "Wolf Pack" case, which also attracted international attention in the context of the global #MeToo movement highlighting sexual abuse and mistreatment of women, went to a Supreme Court appeal in June.

The court found the five Spaniards guilty of rape rather than the lesser crime of sexual abuse and increased their jail terms to 15 years.

Following the verdict, Spain's government said it would toughen punishments for group sexual assaults