The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After the rape of a 7-year-old in India, thousands call for her attackers to be hanged

Demonstrators take part in a march July 1 to protest the rape of a 7-year-old girl in Mandsaur, India. (Sanjeev Gupta/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

A week ago, a 7-year-old girl was abducted outside her school, raped, then left with her throat slit open in central India. Now, thousands of people, including several of the country’s political leaders, are calling for her perpetrators to receive the death penalty.

The incident marks the latest in India’s continuing crisis of crimes against women and girls, which have led to nationwide protests this past year. It is also the first high-profile case of sexual assault since India's cabinet passed an ordinance in April that will allow the death penalty for those who rape children under age 12.

The 7-year-old, who went missing in the city of Mandsaur on Tuesday, was found the next day in bushes about 2,000 feet from her school. She was rushed to the hospital, where medical tests confirmed that she had been raped and assaulted with sharp-edged weapons, the Deccan Chronicle reported. After several surgeries, doctors at the Maharaja Yeshwantrao Hospital in Indore said, the girl is in stable condition.

India ranked world’s most dangerous place for women, reigniting debate about women’s safety

As news of this incident emerged last week, protests broke out in Mandsaur and quickly spread across central India. On Saturday, hundreds of protesters armed with signs, candles and megaphones gathered in cities, blocking streets and shutting down businesses, CBS News reported. Many have called for the two men arrested in the case to receive the death sentence.

A recent report ranking India as the most dangerous place to live for women found that there are nearly four cases of rape in the country every hour. Data released by the government suggests that almost 50 percent of these rape victims are minors, Reuters reported. Close to 19,000 cases of rape against children were registered in 2016.

On Friday, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh state, where Mandsaur is located, told reporters that rapists are a “burden” on Earth and do not deserve to live. He added that the alleged perpetrators in the Mandsaur case had been arrested and that authorities were working to “ensure through fast track courts that he will get capital punishment at the earliest,” NDTV reported.

The chief superintendent of police in Mandsaur, Rakesh Mohan Shukla, told reporters that authorities are assembling a “special investigation team” and “are doing everything to get [the perpetrators] the punishment they deserve.”

Indian police had arrested a total of 22 people by May 8 in connection to three separate rape cases involving teenage girls. (Video: Reuters)

In India, where the legal system is overtaxed and weighed down by bureaucratic processes that can cause decade-long delays in prosecution, many worry that it will take too long for the alleged perpetrators to be convicted and sentenced. In April, Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi described sexual abuse and assault of children in India as a “national emergency.” Reuters reported at the time that more than 100,000 cases of sexual abuse of children are pending in court.

The people rallying behind the Mandsaur victim hope their voices will be loud enough to secure justice. The girl’s father, a flower vendor, has made a similar appeal.

“We want the legal process in this case to be completed at the earliest and the convicts to be given death sentences as soon as possible,” he said.

3 girls, 1 week: Teens raped, set on fire in India