India gang-rape victim 'extremely critical'

Doctors in Singapore battled 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 23-year-old's attackers would face swift justice, doctors at Singapore's Mount Elizabeth Hospital described her condition in the intensive care unit as "extremely critical".

Dr. Kelvin Loh, chief executive officer at the hospital said in a statement: "As at 7pm (1100 GMT) the patient remains in an extremely critical condition. She is under treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital's Intensive Care Unit.

"Prior to her arrival, she has already undergone three abdominal surgeries and experienced a cardiac arrest in India.

"A multi-disciplinary team of specialists is taking care of her and doing everything possible to stabilise her condition."

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.

The victim's relatives accompanied her to 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.

According to police, six men took turns to rape the woman and assault her with an iron bar, leaving her with severe intestinal injuries, before they threw her out of a bus that they had taken for a joyride.

While doctors in Singapore gave no details about the treatment she has received since her early morning arrival, their counterparts at Safdarjung said Mount Elizabeth was chosen as it has a multi-organ transplant facility.

"With fortitude and courage she has survived the after-effects of the injuries so far, but her condition continues to be critical," B.D. Athani, medical superintendent at Safdarjung Hospital, told reporters.

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 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 being gagged, sedated and raped by three men.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a gathering of chief ministers from across India on Thursday that there was a "problem" which "requires greater attention".

Six men are in custody in connection with the assault on the student. 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 an inquiry commission into the attack while a separate panel has been asked to suggest stiffer punishments.

"Laws regarding the safety of women will be reviewed," Singh pledged.

As part of measures to fight crime against women, the Indian government also announced on Thursday it will post identities and photos of rapists on official websites to shame them in public.

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 from marching on the presidential palace.

"We want justice," the protesters chanted.

Meanwhile, President Pranab Mukherjee's son, Abhijit, was criticised 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 most vocal critics was his own sister Sharmishtha who described his comments as "a bit of a shocker" and said her father also disapproved.

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