A 19-year-old woman from the Dalit community died on Tuesday, two weeks after she was allegedly gang-raped and strangled, in Uttar Pradesh, India.

The victim was attacked on Sept 14 while she was out cutting grass in the Hathras district, some 100 km from New Delhi. She was allegedly pulled into a field by four upper-caste men, who then gang-raped her.

The culprits had also tried to strangle her with a shawl, resulting in extensive damage to her spinal cord. The victim was later found in the field naked, bleeding, paralysed, and with her tongue split, probably sustained when she bit into it while being held down.

After a valiant fight at a couple of hospitals, the victim succumbed to her injuries on Tuesday.

Police have arrested four men, who the victim had named as Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush and Ravi, prior to her death, and they are being investigated for rape and murder. The men were reportedly the victim's neighbours.

Following the victim's death, protests have erupted, with activists accusing the police of inaction as they only found out about the victim's alleged rape a week into her hospitalisation. Others are demanding the suspects to be shot dead.

This is not the first time women, and even children from the Dalit community - who have in the past been deemed "untouchables", have been sexually assaulted by upper-caste men.

According to government statistics, at least four Dalit women are raped every day in India. In September alone, there were three other cases of young Dalit women and girls - the youngest being just three years old, being raped and killed by upper-caste men in Uttar Pradesh.

Last month, a 13-year-old Dalit girl was raped and murdered in Uttar Pradesh. Last year, two Dalit children were beaten to death after defecating in the open. In 2018, a 13-year-old girl was beheaded in Tamil Nadu, by a male neighbour from an upper-caste, after she rejected her sexual advances.

Despite the introduction of harsher penalties for rape and sexual assault, India remains one of the most dangerous countries for women.

In 2012, protests erupted across the country after a woman was gang-raped and thrown off a bus in New Delhi, and last year, a young veterinary doctor was gang-raped and later torched, in Hyderabad.

Government statistics show that a rape is reported every 15 minutes, but the real number is believed to be much higher, as many other victims being too ashamed or afraid to come forward to lodge complaints.

Source: CNN, The Guardian
Photo source: Twitter, The Guardian