NEW DELHI – The victim of a gang-rape in New Delhi fought for her life at a Singapore hospital Friday as officials in the Indian state of Punjab fired and suspended police officers accused of ignoring the rape of another woman, who then committed suicide.
Indian authorities have been accused of belittling rape victims and refusing to file cases against their attackers, further deterring victims -- already under societal pressure to keep the assaults quiet -- from reporting the crimes.
However, the gang-rape of the 23-year-old student on a moving bus in the capital two weeks ago has brought new focus on police and community attitudes toward woman in India. Demonstrators in New Delhi have demanded stronger protections for women and stronger punishment for rapists.
After 10 days at a New Delhi hospital, the victim was flown to Singapore on Thursday for treatment at the Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplant. Media reports have said that her assailants beat her and inserted an iron rod into her body during the assault, resulting in severe organ damage.
But by late Friday, the young woman's condition had "taken a turn for the worse" and her vital signs had deteriorated with indications of severe organ failure, said Dr. Kelvin Loh, the chief executive officer of Singapore's Mount Elizabeth hospital.
"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," he said, adding that family members are by her side.
She had earlier suffered a heart attack, a lung and abdominal infection and `'significant" brain injury, according to the hospital.
`'The patient is currently struggling against the odds, and fighting for her life," Dr. Loh said.
Police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries. She was traveling in the virtually empty bus with a male friend when they were attacked. The assailants stripped them both after the assault and threw them out on the road.
`'We wish she recovers and comes back to us and that no time is lost in bringing the perpetrators of such a barbaric act to justice," said Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress Party.
Other politicians have come under fire for comments insulting the protesters and diminishing the crime.
On Friday, Abhijit Mukherjee, a national lawmaker and the son of India's president, apologized for calling the protesters `'highly dented and painted" women, who go from discos to demonstrations.
`'I tender my unconditional apology to all the people whose sentiments got hurt," he told NDTV news.
Separately, authorities in Punjab took action Thursday when an 18-year-old woman killed herself by drinking poison a month after she told police she was gang-raped.
State authorities suspended one police officer and fired two others on accusations they delayed investigating and taking action in the case. The three accused in the rape were only arrested Thursday night, a month after the crime was reported.
"This is a very sensitive crime, I have taken it very seriously," said Paramjit Singh Gill, a top police officer in the city of Patiala.
The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped Nov. 13 and reported the attack to police Nov. 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.
Authorities in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.