A young Indian woman who was gang-raped and severely beaten on a bus died Saturday at a Singapore hospital, after her horrific ordeal galvanized Indians to demand greater protection for women from sexual violence that impacts thousands every day.
She "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 the Indian capital of New Delhi, where the attack occurred, the victim was brought Thursday to Mount Elizabeth Hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplants. Loh said the woman had remained in extremely critical condition since Thursday, and by late Friday her condition had taken a turn for the worse and her vital signs had deteriorated.
"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 travelling 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 hospital in India.
Indian High Commissioner T.C.A. Raghanvan told reporters that the scale of the injuries she suffered was "very grave" and in the end "proved too much."
He said arrangements were being made to take her body back to India.
Protests call for more protection, tougher sanctions
The frightening nature of the crime shocked Indians, who have come out in the thousands for almost daily demonstrations. Indian television channels said security had been tightened in New Delhi on Sunday in anticipation of more protests following the woman's death.
The protesters are demanding stronger protection for women and the death penalty for rape, which is now punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment.
Women face daily harassment across India, ranging from catcalls on the streets, groping and touching on public transport to rape.
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 attitudes toward rape are so entrenched that even politicians and opinion makers have often suggested that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that might be seen as provocative.
On Friday, Abhijit Mukherjee, a national lawmaker and the son of India's president, apologized for calling the protesters "highly dented and painted" women who go from discos to demonstrations.
"I tender my unconditional apology to all the people whose sentiments got hurt," he told NDTV news.
Police punished over inaction
Separately, authorities in Punjab state took action Thursday when an 18-year-old woman killed herself by drinking poison a month after she told police she was gang-raped.
State authorities suspended one police officer and fired two others based on accusations they delayed investigating and taking action in the case. The three accused in the rape were only arrested Thursday night, a month after the crime was reported.
"This is a very sensitive crime, I have taken it very seriously," said Paramjit Singh Gill, a top police officer in the city of Patiala.
The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped Nov. 13 and reported the attack to police Nov. 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.
Authorities in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked.