‘I will die if I have to’: hunger striker leads fight against rape crisis in India

Government inaction drives Swati Maliwal of Delhi Women’s Commission to take a stand

“Stop rape. Stop rape.” The chants rang out over the Samta Sthal memorial as hundreds of women from Delhi and beyond raised their fists in a show of collective rage. Among them sat Leena, 35. “I was six years old when I was raped and I could never speak about it,” she said. “This is India’s worst disease and we need to fix it before even more women are hurt.”

The outrage that engulfed India last week began with a brutal rape case in Hyderabad, where a 27-year-old vet was gang-raped by four men on her way home from work and then killed, her body burned in a motorway underpass. But each day since, horrific cases have emerged relentlessly, from a teenager in Bihar who was gang-raped, strangled to death and burned, to a six-year-old in Rajasthan who was raped and killed by a neighbour, and a rape victim in Uttar Pradesh who was set upon and burned alive by her rapists, who were out on bail, on her way to testify against them in court. Doctors said on Saturday that the woman had died of her injuries.

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