India: Dalit woman dies weeks after gang rape, triggering protest

A woman died in hospital in the Indian capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday, weeks after authorities said 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.

The 19-year-old victim, belonging to the Dalit community – formerly known as “untouchables” – was attacked and raped on September 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.

On Monday, the woman 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 woman’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.

#Hathras trended on Twitter as social media users expressed outrage at the latest case of gruesome sexual assault.

The woman’s home state of Uttar Pradesh, which is governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ranks as the most unsafe state for women in the country.

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

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