Doctors in Singapore battled on Thursday to save the life of an Indian student who sustained horrific injuries in a gang-rape after she was dramatically airlifted from a hospital in New Delhi.
As India's prime minister vowed that the attackers of the 23-year-old would face swift justice, medics at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital described her condition in the intensive care unit as “extremely critical”.
“She is being examined and the hospital is working with the Indian High Commission (embassy),” the hospital added in a brief statement.
The Indian government, which is paying for the woman's treatment, approved the decision to transfer her from Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital where she had been treated since the December 16 assault on a bus in the centre of the capital.
Visa arrangements were also fast-tracked to enable the victim's relatives to keep watch over her in Singapore.
“Since the day of the incident, it has been our endeavour to provide her the best of medical care,” Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said in a statement, warning that her treatment in Singapore could last many weeks.
“Despite the best efforts of our doctors, the victim continues to be critical and her fluctuating health remains a big cause of concern to all of us.”
According to police and prosecutors, six men took turns to rape the woman and assault her with an iron bar, leaving her with intestinal injuries, before they threw her out of a bus that they had taken for a joyride.
While doctors in Singapore did not give details about the treatment she has received since her early morning arrival, their counterparts at Safdarjung said Mount Elizabeth had been chosen as it has a multi-organ transplant facility.
B.D. Athani, medical superintendent at Safdarjung Hospital, told reporters the woman had already undergone three operations in New Delhi.
“With fortitude and courage she has survived the after-effects of the injuries so far, but her condition continues to be critical,” Athani said.
India has been rocked by a wave of protests since the attack, including one in Delhi on Thursday which brought several hundred people onto the streets. Riot police prevented them from marching on government buildings.
The protests have reflected not only the revulsion at the savage nature of the attack but also the simmering anger over the level of violence against women.
Official figures show that 228 650 of the total 256 329 violent crimes recorded last year were against women, with the number of rapes in the capital rising 17 percent to 661 this year.
Gang-rapes are reported on a daily basis, with police revealing on Thursday that a 42-year-old woman had been found overnight dumped on a road in southeast Delhi after she was gagged, sedated and then raped by three men.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a gathering of chief ministers from across India Thursday that there was a “problem” which “requires greater attention” by the central and state governments.
Six men are in custody in connection with the assault. Singh, whose government has been stung by criticism about the notoriously slow Indian justice system, said their case would be dealt with “expeditiously”.
The government has already set up a commission of inquiry into the attack while a separate panel has been asked to suggest stiffer punishments for the most extreme cases.
“Laws regarding the safety of women will be reviewed,” Singh added.
India was rocked by a wave of protests in the week after the attack, prompting authorities to seal off large parts of the capital.
Several thousand riot police were again on duty on Thursday to prevent a group of around 500 people, mostly women, from marching on the presidential palace.
“We want justice,” the protesters chanted, with some demanding the sacking of the Delhi police chief for authorising the use of teargas and water cannon at previous protests.
Meanwhile President Pranab Mukherjee's son, Abhijit, landed himself in trouble for describing some of the protesters as “dented and painted” women - a phrase used by mechanics who mask rust on used cars with liberal coats of paint.
Among his vocal critics was his own sister Sharmishtha who described his comments as “a bit of a shocker” and said her father also disapproved.