NEW DELHI: A low-caste teenage girl died in hospital in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday, weeks after she was raped by a group of men, triggering protests and opposition criticism over what it said was a failure to protect women.
Her case was the latest in a string of gruesome crimes against women in India that have given it the dismal reputation of being one of the worst places in the world to be female.
One woman reported a rape every 15 minutes on average in India in 2018, according to the latest government data released in January.
“There is next to no protection for women. Criminals are openly committing crimes,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of the opposition Congress party, said on Twitter.
…यूपी में कानून व्यवस्था हद से ज्यादा बिगड़ चुकी है। महिलाओं की सुरक्षा का नाम-ओ-निशान नहीं है।अपराधी खुले आम अपराध कर रहे हैं।
इस बच्ची के क़ातिलों को कड़ी से कड़ी सजा मिलनी चाहिए। @myogiadityanath उप्र की महिलाओं की सुरक्षा के प्रति आप जवाबदेह हैं। 2/2
— Priyanka Gandhi Vadra (@priyankagandhi) September 29, 2020
The 19-year-old victim, belonging to the Dalit community – popularly known as “untouchables” – was attacked and raped on Sept 14 at a field near her home in Hathras district, 100km (62-mile) from New Delhi, authorities said.
Police have arrested four men in connection with the crime.
India’s 200 million low-caste Dalits have long faced discrimination and abuse, and campaigners say attacks have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
The victim’s brother told BBC Hindi that no arrests had been made in the first 10 days after the incident took place. “She was left for dead. She fought for her life for 14 days,” he said.
The family told the Indian Express that the main accused in the crime had always harassed Dalits in their area.
On Monday, the girl was brought from a hospital in Uttar Pradesh state to New Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital, where she died while undergoing treatment, authorities said.
About 300 protesters from the Bhim Army, a party championing the rights of Dalits, entered the hospital building and shouted slogans near the mortuary where the girl’s body was kept.
“We will take the matter to fast-track court for the faster investigation and collection of evidence,” district authorities in Hathras said in a statement.
The girl’s home state of Uttar Pradesh, which is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hardline Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ranks as the most unsafe state for women in the country.