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Gang-rape victim dies, India transfixed

The brutal attack on the young woman touched off protests - as well as a national conversation on rape and the safety of women that could intensify with her passing.

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(Read the Monitor's roundup of how the gang-rape started a national dialogue on women's safety)

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But the tragedy has also forced India to confront the reality that sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crime, which forces them to keep quiet and not report it to authorities for fear of exposing their families to ridicule. Also, police often refuse to accept complaints from those who are courageous enough to report the rapes and the rare prosecutions that reach courts drag on for years.

After 10 days at a New Delhi hospital, the victim was brought to the Mount Elizabeth hospital, which specializes in multi-organ transplant. But by late Friday, the young woman's condition had "taken a turn for the worse" and her vital signs had deteriorated. It was clear then that she would not survive long.

Indian attitudes toward rape are so entrenched that even politicians and opinion makers have often suggested that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that might be seen provocative.

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 rapecomplaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.

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Associated Press writer Faris Mokhtar contributed to this report.

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