Gang rape victim dies in hospital
An Indian woman who was gang-raped and beaten on a bus in New Delhi died at a Singapore hospital, after her ordeal galvanised 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 on Thursday to Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specialises in multi-organ transplants.
Dr Loh said the woman had been in extremely critical condition since Thursday, and by late yesterday 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," Dr 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 December 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.
Indian High Commissioner, or ambassador, T.C.A. Raghavan told reporters that the scale of the injuries the woman suffered was "very grave" and in the end "proved too much".
He said arrangements were being made to take her body back to India later today.
The frightening nature of the crime shocked Indians, who have come out in the thousands for almost daily demonstrations.
As news of the victim's death reached New Delhi early today, hundreds of policemen sealed off the high-security India Gate area, where the seat of India's government is located, in anticipation of more protests.
The area is home to the president's palace, the prime minister's office and key defence, external affairs and home ministries.
The area had seen battles between protesters and police for days after the attack.
Ten metro stations in the vicinity also were closed today, said Rajan Bhagat, the New Delhi police spokesman.
Police were allowing people to assemble at the Jantar Mantar and Ramlila grounds, the main areas allotted for protests in New Delhi, Mr Bhagat said.
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 in public transport to rape.
Mr Singh said he understands the angry reaction to the attack and hopes all Indians will work together to make appropriate changes.
"These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change," the prime minister said in a statement today.
"It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."
He said the government was examining the penalties for crimes such as rape "to enhance the safety and security of women.
"I hope that the entire political class and civil society will set aside narrow sectional interests and agendas to help us all reach the end that we all desire - making India a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in," Mr Singh 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.