Hathras gang rape victim’s death sparks outrage

A social activist hold placards during a protest against rape at Hauz Khas village in Delhi on February 21, 2017
A social activist hold placards during a protest against rape in Delhi

A 19-year-old Dalit (formerly untouchable) woman has died after she was allegedly gang raped by four upper-caste men, sparking outrage in India. The woman was admitted to a hospital in Delhi two weeks ago with several serious injuries. The attack occurred on 14 September in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Four men have been arrested. The news of her death has prompted many in India to take to social media and demand justice. Police told local media that the four men had dragged the victim to a field in Hathras district, where they allegedly raped her. She was grievously injured in the attack and the victim’s brother confirmed her death to reporters, saying 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 newspaper that the main accused in the crime had always harassed Dalits in their area. Opposition parties in the state have condemned the attack, the government should provide all possible help to the victim’s family and ensure speedy punishment to the culprits by prosecuting them in a fast-track court, Mayawati, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Dalit politician, tweeted on Tuesday.

Akhilesh Yadav, another former chief minister, said the government was “insensitive” to crimes against women. Dalit politician and activist, Chandrashekhar Azad, had visited the victim over the weekend, his party has now called for nationwide protests over her death. Dalits are some of India’s most downtrodden citizens because of an unforgiving Hindu caste hierarchy that condemns them to the bottom of the ladder. Despite laws that protect them, discrimination remains a daily reality for the Dalit population, thought to number around 200 million. On Twitter, her death is among the top discussion trends, with many calling her the forgotten Nirbhaya, the 23-year-old physiotherapy student was named Nirbhaya “the fearless one” by the press as she could not be named under Indian law. Rape and sexual violence have been under the spotlight in India since the 2012 Delhi attack, which led to huge protests and changes to the country’s rape laws. But there has been no sign of crimes against women and girls abating.

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