The Slatest

An Indian Woman Was Set on Fire While Going to Testify Against the Men Who Allegedly Raped Her

Demonstrators protest against recent string of high-profile rapes after  the alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old vet in Hyderabad.
Demonstrators protest against a recent string of high-profile rapes after the alleged rape and murder of a 27-year-old vet in Hyderabad, India.
Sam Panthaky/Getty Images

A group of five men have been arrested in northern India for allegedly setting a 23-year-old woman on fire Thursday while she was on the way to court to testify against two of the men whom she had accused of rape. Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh say the woman was en route to the train station to go to the courthouse when the men descended upon her, dragged her to a nearby field, poured gasoline on her, and lit her on fire. The brutal assault left the woman with burns on as much as 90 percent of her body and set off yet another wave of outrage in India following a series of high-profile rapes, including the gang rape and murder of a vet in Hyderabad last week. The death of the 26-year-old in Hyderabad, who was strangled to death and her body burned, prompted nationwide protests.

“The two men set fire to the 23-year-old alive to take revenge,” local police said. The fact that the woman was going to testify when she was brutally attacked by the very men she had accused of rape in March almost defies belief and once again shows in clear terms the dangers facing women in India. One of the men arrested was out on bail and another had a previous arrest warrant, according to the Guardian. The woman had filed a police report earlier this year accusing two men of rape, including one individual she said she had previously been in a relationship with. She said the man had lured her with the promise of a marriage proposal, physically exploited her, and later raped her with a friend.

The prevalence of sexual assault and rape in India had long simmered under the surface of Indian society, but a December 2012 gang rape in Delhi prompted a national conversation about sexual violence. Official government statistics show there are some 100 rapes every day in India, but the number of actual instances of sexual violence is believed to be much higher.