SINGAPORE - An Indian woman whose gang-rape on a bus in New Delhi sparked widespread street protests has died in Singapore after suffering severe organ failure, the hospital treating her says.
Authorities in India have been preparing for the possibility her death could ignite more protests after riot police were deployed on the capital’s streets in the wake of the attack amid simmering anger at the daily dangers women face.
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Thousands of people hold candle light vigil as people across India to seek justice for Delhi rape victim, who died in Singapore hospital.
The 23-year-old was airlifted to Singapore on Thursday after she was attacked by six men on a bus in New Delhi on December 16, raped, hit with an iron bar, and thrown from the vehicle.
Some Indian medics had criticised the decision to move her.
‘‘We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4.45 am (7.45am AEDT) on 29 December 2012,’’ Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Singapore’s Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement.
‘‘Her family and officials from the High Commission of India were by her side.’’
The woman had remained in an extremely critical condition since being admitted to the hospital, Loh said, with doctors mounting a last-ditch battle overnight to save her life.
‘‘Despite all efforts by a team of eight specialists in Mount Elizabeth Hospital to keep her stable, her condition continued to deteriorate over these two days,’’ Loh said.
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‘‘She had suffered from severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain. 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.’’
India’s High Commissioner to Singapore T.C.A. Raghavan said the woman’s family was ‘‘shattered’’ by her death.
‘‘The scale of her injuries (was) very great,’’ Raghavan told reporters at the hospital.
‘‘It was was very trying for the family. The girl of course was unconscious... I must say they (the family) bore the entire process with a great deal of fortitude and a great deal of courage.’’
He said arrangements were being made for the body to be returned to India in line with the family’s wishes.
The decision to fly her out of the country by air ambulance was taken at a meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet on Wednesday and the government had promised to pay all her medical bills.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the government’s only concern was to ensure the victim received ‘‘the best treatment possible’’.
But Indian newspapers suggested the authorities, who have struggled to contain the nationwide protests over the attack, were keen to have her transferred out of the country.
An unnamed doctor who was part of a team of experts consulted about the transfer told The Hindu newspaper they had only been asked whether it was safe to move her and not whether it was the best course of action.
‘‘The question was not whether there were any deficiencies in treatment that would be met by moving her... She was being given the best possible care,’’ the doctor was quoted as saying.
Samiran Nundy, chairman of the organ transplant and gastro-surgery department of Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told the paper the transfer made little sense.
‘‘I just can’t understand why a critically ill patient with infection in blood and body, high grade fever and on the ventilator is being transferred,’’ he said.
Singh has ordered an official inquiry into the gang-rape and new laws to protect women as well as stiffer penalties for the worst sex crimes.
And he said Delhi police would soon launch a drive to recruit more female officers as a confidence-building measure.
The government has also announced plans to post the photos, names and addresses of convicted rapists on official websites to publicly shame them.
The campaign will begin in Delhi, which has been dubbed India’s ‘‘rape capital’’.
India was rocked by a wave of protests in the week after the attack, prompting authorities to seal off large parts of the capital and to deploy riot police with water cannons and tear gas.
The Delhi gang-rape has shone the spotlight on a crime that occurs on a daily basis in India, with most such assaults taking place in rural areas.
Police said on Friday that a 15-year-old schoolgirl had had her throat slit after being gang-raped in the Pali Muqimpure area of Uttar Pradesh state.
A hunt has been launched for three youths after the attack the previous day.
After tricking the woman and her 28-year-old male friend into boarding the unauthorised chartered bus with dark, tinted windows and heavy curtains, the crew of the vehicle and accomplices assaulted the two over a period of about 45 minutes, stripped them and then threw them out.
Data provided by India’s National Crime Records Bureau show about 24,200 cases of rape and 228,650 cases of crimes against women were reported in 2011.
Still, figures given by the United Nations show 1.8 cases of rape for every 100,000 in India, compared with 63 in Sweden, 29 in the UK and 27 in the U.S.
Most cases go unreported in India. Singh has vowed expeditious prosecution of the accused, who may be charged as early as next week as the government expedites the case.
A panel headed by a retired Supreme Court chief justice has also been set up to rewrite criminal codes to award harsher penalties, including capital punishment in the ‘‘rarest of rare’’ rape cases.
Typically, it takes years for a common citizen in India to get justice because of the legal process and overburdened courts.
Slow trials and lax enforcement of laws also fueled the protests in the nation’s capital.
About 63,342 cases were pending in the Supreme Court as on July 31, of which 67 percent have languished for more than a year, government data show.
Before last month’s execution of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Pakistani gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India last carried out the death penalty in 2004, when a convict was hanged 14 years after he raped and murdered a school girl.
India has about 15 judges for each million of its 1.2 billion people, according to United Nations data.
In China there are about 159 judges per million people, while in the U.S. the figure is about 108.
AFP and BLOOMBERG