World / Asia-Pacific

Indians mourn gang rape victim

(Agencies/China Daily) Updated: 2012-12-31 09:05

Woman killed in attack was to get married in Feb

The victim of a gang rape and murder that triggered an outpouring of grief and anger across India was cremated at a private ceremony on Sunday as it emerged she had been planning to get married in February.

The unidentified 23-year-old, the focus of nationwide protests since she was brutally attacked on a bus in New Delhi two weeks ago, was cremated away from the public glare only hours after her body was brought home from Singapore.

Indians mourn gang rape victim

Protesters shout slogans as they take part in a demonstration in New Delhi on Sunday after the cremation of a gang rape victim. [Photo/Agencies]

The funeral pyre was lit after traumatized relatives and friends said their final prayers at a ceremony in southwestern Delhi, according to mourners who revealed she had been about to wed a boyfriend who was injured in the same attack.

"They had made all the wedding preparations and had planned a wedding party in Delhi" for February, said Meena Rai, who was a close friend and neighbor.

"I really loved this girl. She was the brightest of all."

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main ruling Congress party, were at Delhi airport to console her parents as they arrived home on a chartered plane with their daughter's body at around 4 am.

After undergoing initial treatment in a Delhi hospital following the attack, she was flown to Singapore on Wednesday night. But doctors were unable to prevent a multiple organ failure and she was pronounced dead in the early hours of Saturday.

Her death has prompted government promises of better protection for women, and deep soul-searching in a nation where gang rapes are a daily occurrence and sexual harassment is routinely dismissed as "eve-teasing".

Waves of protests have erupted across India since the attack on the night of Dec 16 when the woman was not only repeatedly raped but also sexually assaulted with an iron bar, leaving her with extensive intestinal injuries.

Thousands took part in late-night candlelit vigils on Saturday after Singh led appeals for calm to prevent a repeat of the sometimes violent protests.

As police said the six accused of murdering the unnamed woman could face the death penalty, there was a widespread determination that the killing would serve as a tipping point for how the nation deals with violence against women.

Indians mourn gang rape victim

"We are aware that this is not the first case, nor will it be the last case of gang rape in India, but it is clear that we will not tolerate sex crimes any more," said Bela Rana, a lawyer who joined a rally in central Delhi.

The city has been called the "rape capital" of India. A report in Sunday's Hindustan Times said more than 20 women had been raped there since Dec 16.

According to police and prosecutors, the murder victim's ordeal began when six men lured her and her male companion onto a bus that they thought would take them home.

Instead, a group of joyriders, who had been drinking heavily, launched a savage attack lasting some 40 minutes that only ended when the victims were thrown off the bus.

The attack has prompted intense debate among Indians who had grown almost inured to an epidemic of violence against women.

Gang rapes are so common that they rarely get a mention in the newspapers. Victims are often deterred even from reporting them for fear of shaming their families or receiving a brush-off from police.

The Times of India said in an editorial on Sunday that two key questions must be addressed in the aftermath of the tragedy.

"What exactly will the government do now to make the country a safer and better place for all women? And what will all of us do to tackle deeply entrenched prejudice and misogyny in our society?"

The government has already promised to bring in tougher sentences for the most extreme sex crimes and speed up a notoriously slow justice system.

Agence France-Presse

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