Indian schoolgirl set on fire by stalker

She was one of 2 women killed by stalkers; no let-up in crimes, with clips of gang rapes sold

CHENNAI • The death of a schoolgirl three days after she was set on fire by a stalker in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu has sparked outrage from activists who said the law was failing victims of unwanted advances from men.

In a statement to the police before she died, the 17-year-old said the man walked into her house in Villupuram on Monday, set himself on fire and hugged her, all the while saying that he would not let her live for spurning him.

"She said he had stalked her for over a year and she had said no repeatedly," police inspector Senthil Vinayakan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The man had been booked for a similar offence earlier and had even spent time in jail. But no one anticipated this and now they are both dead."

The incident comes a month after a software engineer was hacked to death in broad daylight at a train station in the port city of Chennai. The man arrested for her murder had been stalking her for months, police said.

"Women, especially young girls, are more at risk today,"said Ms U. Vasuki of the All India Democratic Women's Association. "The fact that they have a right to reject just as a man has a right to propose seems to be becoming irrelevant."

For some victims, the nightmare gets worse after a sexual assault.

In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, graphic mobile- phone clips of gang rapes are being sold in shops for 50 rupees (S$1) to 150 rupees each, the Times of India reported.

"We are aware. We are taking necessary action. But it is difficult, as the sales are happening below the counter," said Deputy Inspector-General of Police Ajay Sharma in the city of Agra.

There were 337,922 reports of crimes against women such as rape, molestation, abduction and sexual offences in 2014, up 9 per cent from the previous year, according to the latest data from India's National Crime Records Bureau.

Protests after the fatal gang rape of a woman on a Delhi bus in December 2012 forced the government to enact stiffer penalties for gender crimes, which included criminalising stalking and voyeurism. But the law appears to have failed as a deterrent.

Bollywood director Mahmood Farooqui was found guilty of raping an American research scholar last year at his home in an upscale area of New Delhi. He was yesterday sentenced to seven years in jail.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2016, with the headline 'Indian schoolgirl set on fire by stalker'. Print Edition | Subscribe