Thousands of students gathered in front of the Presidential Palace in New Delhi to protest against current rape laws and the governments dealings of recent rape cases all over India. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
(CNN) - A 23-year-old Indian woman, whose gang-rape aboard a bus in New
Delhi spawned days of mass protests across India, has died, according to
a doctor who was treating her at a Singapore hospital.
The woman "passed away
peacefully" at 4:45 a.m. Saturday (3:45 p.m. ET Friday), with her family
and Indian officials at her side, Dr. Kelvin Loh, chief executive
officer at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement.
The woman had been in
"extremely critical condition" since being admitted Thursday to the
Singapore hospital, and Loh had said Friday that she'd "taken a turn for
"She had suffered from
severe organ failure following serious injuries to her body and brain,"
Loh said. "She was courageous in fighting for her life for so long
against the odds, but the trauma to her body was too severe for her to
Authorities haven't released the name of the rape victim, but protesters
are calling her Damini, which means "lightning" in Hindi. "Damini" also
is a 1993 Bollywood film whose lead female character fights for a
housemaid, a victim of sexual assault.
The attackers assaulted
the woman and her male companion on a bus December 16, robbing them of
their belongings before dumping them at the side of a road, police said.
Six suspects are now under arrest, including the bus driver and a
Her male companion was
eventually discharged from a hospital, but the female victim's condition
deteriorated as she spent days in intensive care, battling for her
Police said Saturday that
she had recovered enough to give a statement to a magistrate from her
hospital bed the night before. But on Sunday, she underwent another
surgery to wash out infection in her abdomen, her doctors said.
The attack set off a
wave of protests by those claiming police and government officials do
not do enough to address rape in India.
Reported rape cases in
India -- where a cultural stigma keeps many victims from reporting the
crime -- have increased drastically over the past 40 years -- from 2,487
in 1971 to 24,206 in 2011, according to official figures. New Delhi
alone had 572 rapes reported last year and more than 600 in 2012.
One such recent case
involved a 17-year-old girl who claimed she'd been gang-raped during the
Hindu festival of Diwali on November 13, though a formal case wasn't
registered by police until 14 days later.
She committed suicide
Wednesday by ingesting poison, according to Paramjit Singh Gill, the
inspector-general of police in the Patiala district of Punjab, in
northern India. In her suicide note, the teenager blamed her alleged
rapists. Three suspects -- including a female accomplice -- have since
been arrested, Gill said.
Seema Sirohi, from the
Indian Council on Global Relations, said that most women in Indian have
stories of sexual harassment and abuse on public transportation, on the
streets, and elsewhere. Regardless of how a woman dresses, "You are
still open season for men."
"There are a lot of
reasons why this happens, but the patriarchal system is one, a lack of
policing is another, and general treatment of women is not equal to men,
even though it may be so under the law," Sirohi said.
Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh has acknowledged the issue, saying that assuring the safety of
women is his government's "highest concern." He said their emergence in
public "is accompanied by growing threats to their safety and security."
"Women and girls
represent half the population, and our society has not been fair to this
half," Singh said in a speech Thursday. "Their socio-economic status is
improving, but gaps persist."
The Indian government
announced plans Thursday to "name and shame" convicted rapists by
posting their names, images and addresses on official websites,
according to the Times of India.
And the Cabinet plans to
set up a commission to look into rape cases and suggest measures to
improve women's safety. This group has three months to submit its report
to the government.