India

Unnao: India woman set on fire on her way to rape case hearing

Demonstrators hold placards to protest against sexual assaults on women, following the alleged gang-rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian in Hyderabad Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sexual violence against women has been a focus in India in recent years

A 23-year-old alleged rape victim is fighting for her life after she was set on fire while going to court in northern India.

The woman was on her way to a hearing in the case she filed against two men in March, in Uttar Pradesh state.

She is in critical condition in hospital, where she is being treated for severe burns.

Five men including two of her alleged rapists have been arrested on suspicion of setting her on fire, police say.

The woman was on her way to a train station when a group of men assaulted her and dragged her to a nearby field, where they set her on fire, according to reports in local media.

Doctors treating her in the hospital in Lucknow city said she had received 90% burn injuries and that she would soon be flown in an air ambulance to the capital, Delhi, for better medical care.

The incident occurred in Unnao district, which was recently in the news over another rape case.

Police opened a murder investigation against a ruling party lawmaker in July after a woman who accused him of rape was seriously injured in a car crash.

Two of her aunts were killed and her lawyer was injured.

This latest incident has sparked widespread outrage in India, which is still reeling from a shocking murder and rape case that grabbed headlines just under a week ago.

A 27-year-old vet in the southern city of Hyderabad was raped and set on fire on 27 November. Protests were held across the country after the victim's charred remains were found following her disappearance last week.

Huge stigma

By Rajini Vaidyanthan, BBC South Asia correspondent

Nearly a hundred rapes are reported in India every single day according to the last recorded crime statistics. Across towns, cities and villages, women, children and sometimes men are subjected to brutal attacks. Many don't get reported, let alone make the headlines.

In recent days there's been growing outrage in the wake of the recent gang rape and murder of a vet in Hyderabad. This latest case in Unnao has deepened that anger.

In a country where there's huge stigma around coming forward and reporting cases of sexual violence, are there enough safeguards for those who do? Are authorities doing enough to punish the perpetrators?

In December 2012 I covered the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in Delhi, which opened up a conversation around sexual violence in India. But little seems to have changed.

In recent days some officials have called on women to come home earlier at night or avoid using transport at certain times. Activists I talked to say the emphasis continues to be on how women can change, rather than looking at how Indian society as a whole needs to do better.

According to the latest government crime figures, police registered 33,658 cases of rape in India in 2017 - that's an average of 92 rapes every day.

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Media captionThe woman fighting back against India's rape culture

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