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India: Teenage rape victim dies, prompting protests

September 29, 2020

Protests have erupted in New Delhi over the death of a low-caste teenager allegedly raped by four upper-caste men. Every 15 minutes, someone is raped in India on average, according to recent government data.

A woman in India at a protest holds up a sign reading: Say no to rape
Image: picture alliance/NurPhoto/S. Pal Chaudhury

 A teenage woman from India's lowest caste died in hospital on Tuesday, weeks after four high-caste men allegedly raped her.

Protesters converged on Delhi's Safdarjung clinic and Bollywood stars vented outrage on social media as news emerged that the 19-year-old Dalit woman had died of her injuries.

Brutally assaulted on a field near her home in Uttah Pradesh on September 14, the woman was first treated in a local hospital and transferred on Monday.

"Sad, sad day. How much longer can this be allowed to go on," wrote director-producer Farhan Akhtar. And, activist Kavita Krishnan decried "structural violence" against women of India's 200 million low-caste Dalits.

Protesters in their hundreds jostled with police outside the Delhi clinic.

"We can't take this anymore, we want justice,” said Chandra Shekkar Aazad, leader of a party that champions Dalit rights.

Last March, four men were hanged at the capital's Tihar Jail for the brutal gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012 — a case that came to symbolize India's sexual violence epidemic.

Read more: India executes four men convicted of 2012 Delhi gang rape

The Times of India newspaper quoted a police superintendent in Uttar Pradesh's Hathas district as saying murder charges would also be filed against the four accused — in addition to counts of gang rape and attempted murder pending.

The victim was found lying in blood and paralysed with neck and spine injuries after allegedly being dragged to a field and raped. Her tongue was cut.

Scared to come forward

Nearly 34,000 rapes were reported across India in 2018 — an average of one rape every 15 minutes. But many other victims are thought to be too scared to come forward.

Uttar Pradesh ranks reportedly as the least safe state for women and is ruled by by Prime Minister Narenda Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Opposition Congress party member, Priyanka Gandhi, blamed the teen's violation on deteriorating law-and-order in Uttar Pradesh.

Last December, a 23-year-old Dalit woman died after being set ablaze by a gang of men as she made her way to court in Uttar Pradesh to press rape charges.

ipj/aw (Reuters, AFP)

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