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Indian Rape Victim Deteriorates as Singh Pledges Justice

December 28, 2012

Indian Rape Victim’s Condition Worsens as Singh Pledges Justice

Women's rights activists hold placards during a demonstration in Mumbai, India, on Dec, 27, 2012. Photographer: Punit Paranjpe/AFP via Getty Images

The condition of an Indian girl who was raped in a moving bus in New Delhi worsened in a Singapore hospital even as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed expeditious prosecution of the accused.

The victim’s vital signs were deteriorating with signs of severe organ failure, Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement today. The 23- year-old woman, raped and brutalized by six men on Dec. 16, is being treated at the hospital’s intensive-care unit in downtown Singapore.

“The patient’s condition has taken a turn for the worse,” Loh said in an update as of 9 p.m. Singapore time. “This is despite doctors fighting for her life, including putting her on maximum artificial ventilation support, optimal antibiotic doses as well as stimulants which maximize her body’s capability to fight infections.”

Singh said his government will examine current laws and punishments for such aggravated crimes against women as he moved to maintain calm after the attack that sparked two days of rioting and prompted police to shut down some subway stations. Amid reports of more cases of sexual assault, a retired judge of the Delhi High Court will investigate the incident and fix lapses, while a panel headed by a former Supreme Court judge will review the laws.

“We are committed to bringing the guilty to justice as soon as possible,” Singh told reporters in New Delhi today. “Our prayers are with the brave young girl. Best possible medical care is being provided.”

Specialized Treatment

In addition to a prior cardiac arrest, the girl also had a significant brain injury and infection of the lungs and abdomen, the hospital said in an earlier statement today.

“A multidisciplinary team of specialists has been working tirelessly since her arrival and is doing everything possible to stabilize her condition over the next few days,” Loh said.

India’s Home Ministry said she was shifted abroad for specialized treatment on the advice of doctors and the government will bear all expenses.

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 people in India, compared with 63 in Sweden, 29 in the U.K. and 27 in the U.S. Most cases go unreported in India.

A 42-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by three men near New Delhi, the Press Trust of India reported yesterday. In an incident in Surat, Gujarat, the news agency said yesterday that a sex worker was allegedly raped by 10 men on Dec. 25.

The government panel headed by a former Supreme Court chief justice may rewrite the nation’s criminal code to include capital punishment for the “rarest of rare” rape cases, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said at a briefing on Dec. 22.

Death Penalty

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 convicted rapist was hanged 14 years after committing the crime. Slow trials and lax enforcement of laws also fueled the protests in the capital.

India has about 15 judges for each million of its 1.2 billion people, according to UN data. In China there are about 159 judges per million people, while in the U.S. the figure is about 108.

Some women’s groups protested in New Delhi yesterday and were prevented from marching to India Gate, the venue of violent demonstrations over the weekend when police lobbed tear-gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the crowd. A police constable died during the clashes, while the Times of India reported on Dec. 24 that 65 protesters and 78 security personnel were injured.

Mobilizing Protests

Postings on Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. sites, and instant messaging on Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)’s BlackBerry services helped thousands gather in central New Delhi on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, fueling the protests.

This is a “new phenomenon” in India and authorities aren’t fully prepared, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters Dec. 26.

“Lessons have been learnt,” he said. “We will have to devise standard operating procedures to deal with such flash mobs turning into protests.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Bibhudatta Pradhan in New Delhi at bpradhan@bloomberg.net; Siddharth Philip in Mumbai at sphilip3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hari Govind at hgovind@bloomberg.net


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