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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 October, 2003, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Fear stalks Delhi women
By Sushila Singh
BBC correspondent in Delhi

A series of sexual assaults on women have rocked the Indian capital Delhi recently.

Women in Delhi feel unsafe to venture outdoors after dark
Four soldiers belonging an elite unit that guards the country's president are currently in prison.

They are being held in connection with the rape of a university student in a public park.

Last year, a medical student was gang-raped in broad daylight in the heart of the capital.

Molestation and rape have become a regular and grim feature of life in the sprawling city.

The incidents of rape in Delhi have risen by 22% this year over 2002, according to an estimate.

In a horrific recent incident, a girl working in a Delhi hospital was attacked.

She said she was sleeping when a man entered her room and attacked her.

"I became unconscious. When I regained consciousness after three hours, I noticed that my eyes were filled with blood and had been gouged out," she told the BBC.

"My head was hurting and there were no clothes on my body. I began to vomit."

The girl said the hospital ward boy found her early next morning.

Child victims

A shocking fact is that about 75 percent of the rape victims in Delhi are children.

Rapes in Delhi
22% rise in rapes in 2003
75% of the victims are children
A third are below 12 years
A third of them are below 12 years of age.

Psychiatrist Pradeep Agarwal feels that the rapists are usually men who cannot relate to their peers.

"They are not able to express themselves sexually in the same age group of adults. So they target children who cannot resist them," Dr Agarwal said.

Many organisations are working for the rehabilitation of rape victims.

Rajmangal Prasad, who works with one such organisation, said most victims are unaware of their legal rights.

His organisation provides victims with legal aid and counselling.

"When a case is referred to us by the district police, our trained social workers try to reach the place and try to talk to the victim," said Mr Prasad.

"We counsel the victim, accompany them to the medical examinations and help them in the legal process."

Most rape victims are socially ostracised adding to their trauma.

Unless the system steps forward to support them, they will continue to be victimised.

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