The attack is just one of several recently reported cases of rape against women or children in India, underlining the persistence of such violence despite a public outcry three years ago that led to stronger laws to prevent sexual assault.
In the latest case, police arrested a 20-year-old man for allegedly raping and attempting to burn the girl to death in Tigri village, near the New Delhi suburb of Noida in the state of Uttar Pradesh, on Monday, according to constable Yadram Singh of Bisrakh police station. Mr Singh said the man “had severe burns on his hands” and has been charged with several offences, including rape, attempted murder, assault of a minor, and causing grievous injury.
The teenager is in a critical condition in a New Delhi hospital, Mr Singh said. Indian newspapers reported that she was suffering from burns to 95% of her body.
Mr Singh’s police report describes how the girl’s parents found her with severe burns, after hearing her screaming from the rooftop terrace a few hours before dawn on Monday. The girl told police she was raped, beaten, and set on fire by a man who she said had been stalking her for months.
India’s women and children are considered particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment thanks to widespread social taboos against speaking about sexual assault. The stigma is enough to keep many from reporting crimes, while others face police resistance in filing complaints.
Experts say that has started to change since the 2012 fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old woman on a New Delhi bus triggered national anger and demands more be done on women’s safety.
The government rushed through legislation to double prison terms for rape, and to criminalise voyeurism, stalking, and the trafficking of women. But activists say more action is needed, including better educating youths and adding basic safety infrastructure such as street lights and public bathrooms. The public debate has also increased Indian newspaper reports of rape and assault, including several in just the last few days.
On Monday, police in Mumbai said they were investigating whether a four-year-old girl whose body was dumped in the bushes on the city’s outskirts had been raped before being killed, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency. The girl reportedly went missing after being separated from her mother at a railway station on Sunday night.
In other cases in Uttar Pradesh, police arrested a 20-year-old man suspected of raping a six-year-old on Sunday night, while separately they were investigating nine people for allegedly gang-raping a woman when she went into fields to urinate last month, PTI reported.
And last week, three boys reportedly kidnapped a teenage girl from her home and raped her repeatedly in an field in the northern state of Haryana and later in New Delhi before she escaped, PTI cited police as saying.