New Delhi (CNN) – An Indian woman allegedly assaulted and raped in Mumbai on Friday died from her injuries, in a case that activists say bears a striking similarity to the brutal gang rape and murder of a student in 2012 that led to millions of women. to push for stricter laws against sexual assault in the country.
The 34-year-old woman was found unconscious inside an open minibus in the suburban Sakinaka neighborhood, Mumbai Police Commissioner Hemant Nagrale told a news conference on Saturday.
She was allegedly raped and assaulted with an iron bar, according to CNN affiliate News-18, citing a local official. The woman was admitted to Rajawadi Hospital and initially responded to treatment, but died from her injuries on Saturday, Nagrale said.
Police arrested a man on suspicion of rape and murder, after allegedly identifying him from CCTV footage, Nagrale added. He has not yet been formally charged and will remain in police custody until September 21.
Balwant Deshmukh, chief police inspector at the Sakinaka police station, told CNN that the victim and the alleged perpetrator were homeless. If charged and found guilty, the suspect could face the death penalty.
Anti-rape and women’s rights activist Yogita Bhayana said Friday’s case in Mumbai had “shaken the nation once again” because it was “incredibly similar” to the notorious rape and murder of 23-year-old student Nirbhaya. in New Delhi in 2012.
Nirbhaya – a pseudonym given to the victim, meaning “brave” – was raped and assaulted with iron bars, according to court documents, and suffered horrific injuries. He died two weeks after the attack at a Singapore hospital.
Her death highlighted sexual assault in India and increased scrutiny of crimes against women. The case marked a turning point in the country and prompted millions of women to protest stricter laws on sexual assault.
“After Nirbhaya, we thought things would change, but we keep hearing (rape) cases every day. Not a day goes by without us hearing about one,” Bhayana said. “As activists, we press and poll the government and the nation a lot, but when we learn of such brutality, we really feel so powerless. I have no words to describe it.”
Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of Maharashtra, whose capital is Mumbai, expressed shock at the “gruesome” incident.
“The heinous crime that took place in Saki Naka is a disgrace to humanity,” Thackeray tweeted on Saturday, adding that the case would be accelerated and the culprit would be “severely punished.”
The rape crisis in India
According to the latest figures available from India’s National Bureau of Criminal Records, more than 32,000 cases of alleged rape against women were reported in 2019, one approximately every 17 minutes. But activists believe that the true figure is much higher, as many are not reported out of fear.
The number of reported rapes has increased since Nirbhaya’s death, possibly due to increased awareness of the issue. Experts say the outrage has helped dispel the shame of talking about rape.
Subsequently, legal reforms and harsher penalties for rape were introduced. These include fast-track courts to get rape cases through the court system quickly, an amended definition of rape to include anal and oral penetration, and the introduction of new guidelines to eliminate the two-finger test, which purportedly assessed whether a woman had sexual intercourse.
However, high-profile rape cases continue to make headlines. In August, four men were charged with the alleged rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl in New Delhi. The girl belonged to the Dalit community in the country, the most oppressed in Hinduism’s caste hierarchy.
In January, a Hindu priest and two of his male followers were arrested for the alleged gang rape and murder of a 50-year-old woman in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. In September last year, the alleged gang rape and death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh sparked protests across the country.
Bhayana, the activist, urged the nation to work together to ensure that Indian women are protected.
“As a nation, we must think about where we are now,” he said. “It has been almost 10 years since Nirbhaya, but things remain the same. We need to work collectively, otherwise nothing will change.”