​Indian nurse dies after 42 years in rape-induced coma

Reuters / Adnan Abidi
A Mumbai nurse, Aruna Shanbaug, who spent 42 years in a vegetative state after being brutally raped, has died of pneumonia in the hospital where she used to work.

Aruna Shanbaug worked as a junior nurse at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospital in the early 1970s, after moving to Mumbai from the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

On November 27, 1973, when she was 25, Aruna was attacked and sodomized by a cleaner at the hospital, Sohanlal Bhartia Valmiki. He tied Aruna to a dog chain, raped then strangled her and left her to die.

Ms. Shanbaug survived but spent the rest of her life in a vegetative state.

On Monday, KEM doctors announced her death.

“Shanbaug was diagnosed with pneumonia last week and had been on a life support system for the past few days,” said Pravin Bangar, KEM’s medical superintendent.

The case of Aruna Shanbaug provoked debates over the problem of euthanasia in India after Aruna’s friend, Mumbai-based author Pinki Virani, asked the court to stop force-feeding her friend and thus put an end to her four-decade agony.

However, the nurses who treated Aruna Shanbaug for more than 40 years opposed this.

Finally, India's Supreme Court rejected Pinki Virani’s petition.

The story of Aruna Shanbaug also sparked debate on a deep-seated problem in Indian society – sexual abuse. According to National Crime Records Bureau statistics, a woman is raped every 20 minutes in India and rapists often go unpunished or get a soft penalty.

Read more: http://rt.com/news/india-rape-protests-killed-084/

In Shanbaug's case, the man who raped her, Sohanlal Bharta Walmiki, wasn’t even charged with rape since sodomy wasn’t regarded as such under Indian law at the time. He spent just seven years in prison for robbery and attempted murder.

"I was told that he had changed his name and was working as a ward boy in a Delhi hospital. The hospital where he had sodomised Aruna and left her in this permanent vegetative condition had never kept a photo of him on file. Neither did the court papers," said Pinki Virani.

The gang rape of a student on a Delhi bus in December, 2012, became one of India’s most sensational cases and also created ripples abroad. It sparked mass protests across the country and worldwide, putting the problem of women’s rights firmly on the agenda of Indian politics. In March, 2013, the Indian parliament introduced a law stipulating the death penalty for repeat rape offenders and those whose victims are left in a "vegetative state."