An Indian woman who was gang-raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi died Saturday at a Singapore hospital, after her ordeal galvanized Indians to demand greater protection for women from sexual violence that impacts thousands of them every day.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was aware of the emotions the attack has stirred and that it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman’s death will not have been in vain.
The victim “passed away peacefully” with her family and officials of the Indian Embassy by her side, Dr. Kevin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth hospital, said in a statement.
After 10 days at a hospital in New Delhi, the Indian capital, the woman was brought Thursday to Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplants. Loh said the woman had been in extremely critical condition since Thursday, and by late Friday her condition had taken a turn for the worse, with her vital signs deteriorating.
“Despite all efforts by a team of eight specialists in Mount Elizabeth Hospital to keep her stable, her condition continued to deteriorate over these two days,” Loh said. “She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain. She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long against the odds but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to overcome.”
The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were traveling on a bus in New Delhi after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who raped her. The men also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into the woman’s body, resulting in severe organ damage. Both were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.
Indian police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries, a lung infection and brain damage. She also suffered from a heart attack while in the hospital in India.
The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, which forces them to keep quiet and not report it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Also, police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years.
Indian police charged six men with murder on Saturday, hours after a woman who was gang-raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi nearly two weeks ago died in a Singapore hospital.
New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said the six face the death penalty if convicted, in a case that has triggered protests across India for greater protection for women from sexual violence, and raised questions about lax attitudes by police toward sexual crimes.
As the body of the 23-year-old student was being readied for the flight from Singapore back to India, police sealed off parts of the capital, New Delhi, and braced for more angry demonstrations like the ones last week, when thousands of Indians – most of them young and furious – poured into the streets to protest against the gang rape of the student.
Nehra Kaul Mehra, a young Indian studying urban and gender policing at Colombia University in the United States, said “We come from a feudal and patriarchal set-up where we value men more than women.”
“We kill daughters before they are born. Those who live are fed less, educated less and segregated from boys,” she said with a black band of protest around her mouth.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the woman’s death was a sobering reminder of the widespread sexual violence in India.
“The outrage now should lead to law reform that criminalizes all forms of sexual assault, strengthens mechanisms for implementation and accountability, so that the victims are not blamed and humiliated,” Ganguly said.
Mamta Sharma, head of the state-run National Commission for Women, said the “time has come for strict laws” to stop violence against women. “The society has to change its mindset to end crimes against women,” she said.
The tragedy has forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, forcing them to keep quiet and discouraging them from reporting it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes, and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years.