01/03/2014, 00.00
INDIA
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Kolkata: police ignore 16-year-old girl who is killed after being gang-raped

After attackers set the girl on fire to prevent her from speaking, she dies from burns to her body. Doctors reveal she was pregnant. The family accuses the police of negligence and of cremating their daughter's body against their will, perhaps to hush up the case. For Catholic doctor, the incident is "an attack on the dignity of life itself".

Kolkata (AsiaNews) - A 16-year-old girl was gang-raped twice and then set on fire on the night of 31 December to prevent her from speaking. She died later in hospital from the burns she suffered. The case was compounded by the total indifference of the authorities. Although she filed a complaint after the first attack, the police failed to provide protection. Instead, after her death, it hastily arranged for the cremation of her body against the wishes of the family.

The young woman's tragic fate began on 25 October when she was attacked and raped by two men on the outskirts of Calcutta. She was later found in fields near her home. Her name was not disclosed in accordance with Indian law to protect the identity of rape victims.

Despite everything, the young woman and her parents went to the local police station to report the incident. On her way home, she was assaulted again, kidnapped and raped. A few hours later, she was found near the railway station in Madhyamgram.

According to preliminary reports, the young woman was hospitalised before Christmas, her body covered with burns. At first, doctors thought about suicide, but before she lost consciousness she said that her rapists had set her on fire. Eventually, tests indicated that she was pregnant.

After she died on Tuesday, her parents demanded her body - they wanted to wait for the arrival of some family members from Bihar before conducting the funeral service.

Police however did not wait. First, they threatened the family, telling them to leave Kolkata with their daughter's body, then they cremated it before the family could sign the death certificate.

When asked, police could not give a clear explanation for the night-long tragedy. "We wanted to ensure that there was no law-and-order problem," said Joint Commissioner Rajeev Mishra.

According to local sources, the police apparently acted on the instructions of a minister of the ruling Trinamool Congress government, who wanted to silence everyone to avoid incidents in conjunction with 1 January, the anniversary of the founding of his party. Indeed, no Trinamool leader expressed condolences to the victim's family.

The violent incident in Kolkata brings to mind the tragic gang rape in New Delhi, in December 2012. At the time, Pascoal Carvalho, a Catholic physician and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told AsiaNews that the incident was "an attack on life itself and the sign of the degradation of the dignity and sanctity of every human being."

According to the expert, "it is urgent not only to condemn gender-based violence, but also to understand its causes. Our patriarchal mind-set has become insidious in our society. We live in an environment that does not consider women equal to men, one that continues to assign specific roles. The cycle of domination begins well before birth and female foeticide and infanticide are a well-known malaise in our society."

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