Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Indian-controlled Kashmir to demand the death penalty for a man who allegedly raped a three-year-old girl, amid growing anger over sexual violence in the troubled Himalayan region.
- Dozens of people were injured when officers fired tear gas and used batons to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators
- Some protesters said they no longer had faith in authorities to keep women and girls safe
- Authorities have appealed for calm after the protests
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Dozens of people were injured, most of them police, when officers fired tear gas and used batons to disperse stone-throwing demonstrators who had blocked part of a highway on Monday, police said in a statement.
The child’s rape came weeks after the death of a girl who police say was repeatedly raped by her own father, and has intensified public concerns over sexual violence.
Shops, businesses and schools were also shut across the Muslim-majority region in response to a strike called by separatist cleric Moulana Masoor Abbas to protest the rape.
“We called for strike today to make people aware about growing incidents of rapes in the valley,” Mr Abbas told reporters.
“We want justice for the victim.”
Police said the child was lured into an empty school by a neighbour and raped last Wednesday.
Her mother followed her screams to find her inside a bathroom.
One person has been arrested over the attack.
Some protesters said they no longer had faith in authorities to keep women and girls safe, calling for those found guilty of such crimes to be given the death penalty.
“If the culprits of such crimes are hanged, then such incidents can come down,” protester Nafia Khursheed said.
Authorities appealed for calm after the protests, which followed a pledge by Muslim clerics in the region to dedicate their Ramadan sermons to women’s rights.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), a council of Muslim religious leaders and scholars, said they wanted to address what they said was a rise in sexual violence in the region.
Crimes against women jumped 8 per cent to 3,168 cases in 2017 from 2,915 the previous year, according to government figures.
Last year, nationwide protests flared over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir, prompting the federal Government to introduce the death penalty for rapists of girls under the age of 12.