Victim of gang rape in New Delhi dies at hospital because of assault's trauma

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NEW DELHI -- A young woman who had been in critical condition since she was raped two weeks ago by a group of men who lured her onto a bus died early today, said an official at the hospital in Singapore that was caring for her.

The woman, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student whose rape Dec. 16 had served as a reminder of the dangerous conditions women face in India, "died peacefully," according to a statement by Kelvin Loh, chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore.

The woman, whose intestines were removed because of injuries caused by a metal rod used during the rape, has not been identified. She was flown Wednesday night to Singapore after being treated at a local hospital.

"The patient had remained in an extremely critical condition," the statement said. "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."

Police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, according to Indian officials.

Revulsion and anger over the attack have galvanized India, where women regularly face sexual harassment and assault, and where neither police nor the judicial system is seen as adequately protecting them. Angry protesters thronged central Delhi after the attack was made public and assembled in other major cities, demanding better protection from police and better treatment overall for women. Some protesters and politicians have called for the death penalty for rapists.

Top officials now say change is needed. "The emergence of women in public spaces, which is an absolutely essential part of social emancipation, is accompanied by growing threats to their safety and security," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a speech Thursday. "We must reflect on this problem, which occurs in all states and regions of our country, and which requires greater attention."

Activists and lawyers in India have long said police are insensitive when dealing with crimes against women. The result, they say, is that many women do not report cases of sexual violence.

India, which has more than 1.3 billion people, recorded 24,000 cases of rape last year, a figure that has increased by 25 percent in the past six years. On Thursday, Delhi government officials said they would register the names and photographs of convicted rapists on the Delhi police website, the beginning of a national registry for rapists.

Meanwhile, the family of an 18-year-old woman in the northern Indian state of Punjab who committed suicide Wednesday after being raped last month by two men blamed police for her death. Relatives of the woman say she killed herself because police delayed registering the case or arresting the rapists. If police "had done their job, she would be alive today," the woman's sister, Charanjit Kaur, 28, said in a phone interview. "They didn't listen to us; they didn't act."

On Friday, the Punjab high court intervened, asking police to explain their delay. Three police officers have been suspended in the case, according to news media reports. Punjab police officials did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.

Ms. Kaur said her sister was abducted by two men from a place of worship near the small town of Badshahpur on Nov. 13 and was drugged and raped repeatedly. When the woman reported the episode at the local police station a few days later, she was asked to describe it in graphic detail and was "humiliated," her sister said.

Over the next few days, Ms. Kaur said, her mother and sister were repeatedly called to the police station and forced to sit there all day. But the case was not registered for two weeks, as police officials and village elders tried to broker a deal between the men accused of the rape and the victim. In some parts of India, women are commonly married to men who have raped them.

Ms. Kaur said police told her family that, because they were poor, they would not be able to fight the matter in court. "They kept putting pressure on my family to take money or marry the accused or just somehow settle the matter," she said.

After no agreement was reached, police registered the case, but they did not make any arrests.

The victim was stalked and harassed by the men accused of the rape, who threatened to kill her and her family if she refused to drop the complaint, her suicide note said. "They have ruined my life," the note read, according to Ms. Kaur.

The note names two men and a woman who allegedly helped the other two men as they kidnapped her. Those two men have now been arrested, police said Friday.

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