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India gang-rape victim dies in hospital; case focused attention on sexual violence

The 23-year-old who was gang-raped in New Delhi and thrown from a bus has died from her injuries in Singapore, where she was being treated. NBC's Natalie Morales reports.

SINGAPORE — A 23-year-old Indian woman who was gang-raped and severely beaten on a bus in New Delhi died Saturday at a Singapore hospital.


The woman's horrific ordeal galvanized Indians to demand greater protections against widespread sexual violence, and her death was expected to intensify public demands for action by the Indian government.

The victim who has not been identified, "passed away peacefully" with her family and officials of the Indian embassy by her side," said Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, where she had been treated since Thursday. "The Mount Elizabeth Hospital team of doctors, nurses and staff join her family in mourning her loss," he said in a statement.


The woman and a male friend were traveling in a public bus after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who took turns raping her. They also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into her body resulting in severe organ damage. Both of them were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.

 

The woman was airlifted to Singapore on Dec. 26 for specialist treatment, but she had remained in extremely critical condition, Loh said.

The victim had already undergone three abdominal operations before arriving in Singapore, where her condition on Thursday was described as "extremely critical."

Photos: Police try to temper outrage over gang rape

"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," said Loh on Saturday. "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."

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The attack triggered nationwide protest over the lack of safety for women, culminating last weekend in pitched battles between police and protesters in the heart of the capital.

New Delhi has the highest number of sex crimes among India's major cities, with a rape reported on average every 18 hours, according to police figures. Government data show the number of reported rape cases in the country rose by nearly 17 percent between 2007 and 2011.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government seemed at first caught off guard by the reaction to the attack, which sparked a blame game between politicians and the police.

On Saturday he said that he was aware of the emotions the attack has stirred and that it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman's death will not have been in vain.

"These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change," Singh said in a statement. "It would be a true homage to her memory if we are able to channel these emotions and energies into a constructive course of action."

He said the government was examining the penalties for crimes such as rape "to enhance the safety and security of women."

Indian television channels said security had been tightened in New Delhi on Saturday in anticipation of more protests following the woman's death.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Protests continued across New Delhi, India, where around 500 people marched in response to the recent gang rape of a young woman. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.

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