Rape victim self-immolates protesting police inaction

New Delhi: An Indian rape victim has died in hospital after setting herself on fire in protest at police failing to take action, an official said Friday.

Police superintendent S. Channappa told AFP that there had been a “lapse” by police and that an investigation was underway to see if the woman’s family had been pressured not to make a complaint.

The 28-year-old woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, died late Thursday in a hospital in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh state, 24 hours after suffering critical burn injuries when she set herself alight at her home.

“We have arrested the accused today and also suspended the concerned police officers until further orders,” Channappa told AFP.

The woman and her husband went to police on August 23 to lodge a rape complaint. The husband has alleged that police refused to register a case and asked them to settle the matter with the accused who came from the same village.

“We have a letter signed by the victim and her family that they reached an understanding with the accused,” Channappa said.

Authorities are now investigating if the victim was coerced by officials. “A complaint should have been registered immediately. That is a lapse on our part,” Channappa said.

Sexual violence is rife in India, with nearly 40,000 rape cases reported in 2016. Activists say this is just the tip of the iceberg.

India has been the focus of international attention since the 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus sparked nationwide protests and highlighted its poor record on sexual violence.

Uttar Pradesh has been rocked by high profile rape cases in recent months, including one that allegedly involved a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.