A woman whose gang rape provoked protests and rare national debate about violence against women in India died from her injuries on Saturday, 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 attack on December 16 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 India 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.
The six suspects held in connection with the attack on the student on a New Delhi bus were charged with murder following her death, police said. The maximum penalty for murder is death.
Authorities, worried about the reaction to the news of her death, deployed thousands of policemen, closed 10 metro stations and banned vehicles from some main roads in the heart of New Delhi, where demonstrators have converged since the attack to demand improved women’s rights.
Despite efforts to cordon off the city centre, more than 1,000 people gathered at two locations. Some protesters shouted for justice, others for the death penalty for the rapists.
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.
The woman, beaten, raped and thrown out of a moving bus, had been flown to Singapore in a critical condition by the Indian government on Thursday.
She and her male friend were returning home from the cinema, media reports say, when six men on the bus beat them with metal rods and repeatedly raped the woman. Media said a rod was used in the rape, causing internal injuries. The friend survived.
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