June 30, 2018 / 11:25 AM / 5 months ago

Rape of seven-year-old girl sparks angry protests in India

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Thousands of people took to the streets in central India this week demanding the death penalty for assailants who raped a seven-year-old girl lured away from school as she waited to be picked up by her parents.

People participate in a rally to protest against the rape of a seven-year-old girl in Mandsaur, India, June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Two men have been arrested for the crime in the city of Mandsaur, police said. The victim was hospitalised but is recovering, doctors said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced the death penalty for rape of girls under 12 and increased the minimum punishment for those whose victims were under 16, after the rapes of an eight-year-old girl and a young woman in two states ruled by his party earlier this year led to public protests.

There were 40,000 rapes reported in India in 2016 and the victims were children in 40 percent of those cases. Every day, newspapers carry fresh stories of sexual violence against women.

In Mandsaur, the girl was waiting to be picked up from school by her parents, who were running late, police said. CCTV footage, accessed from nearby shops, showed her walking away with one of the accused.

Police later found the victim unconscious in nearby bushes, said Manoj Singh, a police superintendent in the Mandsaur district.

The two men were in custody, he added.

“Our investigation is almost complete,” Singh said. “We are waiting for the doctors to permit us to talk to the victim. We just want to confirm a few things with her and then we will put up the final report in court.”

Singh said thousands of people held street protests in about eight cities in the region, many seeking the death penalty for the accused.

Shivraj Chauhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state, where Mandsaur is located, has also demanded the death penalty for those found guilty, according to news reports.

Reporting by Abhirup Roy; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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