A woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India died from her injuries, prompting promises of action from a government that has struggled to respond to public outrage.
The unidentified 23-year-old medical student suffered a brain injury and massive internal damage in the December 16 attack and died in hospital in Singapore where she had been taken for treatment.
Protesters rallied peacefully in the capital New Delhi and other cities across the country to keep the pressure on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government to get tougher on crimes against women. That was in contrast to the pitched battles protesters fought with police last weekend.
I wasn’t previously aware that India was so backwards in its treatment of sex crimes against women. I was aware how barbaric it was in certain Middle Eastern countries and parts of Africa. But this case has really shone the light on India.
Most sex crimes in India go unreported, many offenders go unpunished, and the wheels of justice turn slowly, according to social activists who say that successive governments have done little to ensure the safety of women.
Political leaders vowed steps to correct “shameful social attitudes” towards women in the world’s biggest democracy.
The details of the attack are gruesome, made almost unbelievable that it was allowed to occur on a moving bus for an hour – and no one called the Police.
“For some reason, and I don’t really know why, she got through to us,” well-known columnist Nilanjana Roy wrote in a blog on Saturday.
“Our words shrivelled in the face of what she’d been subjected to by the six men travelling on that bus, who spent an hour torturing and raping her, savagely beating up her male friend.”
Sonia Gandhi, the powerful leader of the ruling Congress party, directly addressed the protesters in a rare broadcast on state television, saying that as a mother and a woman she understood their grievances.
“Your voice has been heard,” Gandhi said. “It deepens our determination to battle the pervasive and the shameful social attitudes that allow men to rape and molest women with such impunity.”
The victim and her male friend were returning home from the cinema, media reports say, six men on their bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. Media said a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. Both were thrown from the bus. The male friend survived.
Absolute animals. I hope they are found guilty and never freed.
A global poll by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June found that India was the worst place to be a woman because of high rates of infanticide, child marriage and slavery.
New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India’s major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17 per cent between 2007 and 2011.
And that’s just reported ones.