Gang-rape victim dies, PM says death won't go in vain

Singapore/New Delhi, Dec 29 (IANS) A young woman who was brutally gang-raped and tortured in the Indian capital died in Singapore early Saturday. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was up to "us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain".

The victim, whose name has not been revealed, "passed away peacefully at 4.45 a.m. (2.15 IST)," with her distraught family and Indian diplomats by her side, Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital's Kelvin Loh said.

The 23-year-old woman suffered multiple-organ failure after she was raped by six males, including a juvenile, in a moving bus in Delhi for around 40 minutes Dec 16 and dumped her by a roadside.

Her male friend was also badly beaten up and thrown out of the bus.

All six accused have been arrested and are in Delhi's Tihar Central Jail.

Authorities in India shifted the woman, who had been on ventilator support since her rape, to Singapore Thursday in a last ditch attempt 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.

"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."

B.D. Athani, medical superintendent of Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, said the woman had been speaking to her mother and other family members earlier, giving the impression that she would somehow survive.

But her condition deteriorated rapidly after a third operation, with a fatal infection spreading to her chest, lungs and intestine, he said.

Expressing his deepest condolences, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said it was up to "us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain" and India becomes "a demonstrably better and safer place for women to live in".

He said he joined the nation "in conveying to her family and friends" his deepest condolences at this "terrible loss".

"I want to tell them and the nation that while she may have lost her battle for life, it is up to us all to ensure that her death will not have been in vain.

India's High Commissioner to Singapore, T.C.A. Raghavan, said the woman's family was "shattered".

"It was very trying for the family. The girl of course was unconscious," he said. "I must say they (the family) bore the entire process with a great deal of fortitude and courage."

He said her body would be flown to India Saturday afternoon.

The prime minister said: "We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated. These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change."

It would be a true homage to her memory, he added, if these emotions and energies were channelized into a constructive course of action.

"The need of the hour is a dispassionate debate and inquiry into the critical changes that are required in societal attitudes.

"The government is examining, on priority basis, the penal provisions that exist for such crimes and measures to enhance the safety and security of women."

The horrific gang-rape, in which the rapists used an iron rod to torture her, triggered angry demonstrations across india against growing sexual crimes against women. A policeman died in one such protest in Delhi.

The Indian government vowed to fast track the trial of the accused.

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