A 23-year-old rape victim is in critical condition after being set on fire by a group of men, including two of her alleged rapists, as she made her way to court in northern India on Thursday.

It came after thousands took to the streets of several cities on Monday to protest the brutal rape and murder of a 27-year-old vet in Hyderabad and called for the rape cases to be fast-tracked and for rapists to be given tougher punishments.

A June 2018 survey of 550 experts on women’s issues by the Thomson Reuters Foundation found India was the worst country in the world for sexual violence against women.

32,000 rapes were recorded by the National Crime Records Bureau in 2017 although 99 per cent of attacks are thought to go unreported. India also ranked top for human trafficking for domestic work, forced labour, forced marriage and sexual slavery.

The 23-year-old victim was on her way to catch a train to a court hearing in the Unnao district of Uttar Pradesh when the mob doused her in kerosene and set her alight.

Doctors treating the victim at the Civil Hospital in the regional capital of Lucknow said she had suffered 90 per cent burns and would be flown in an air ambulance for further treatment in Delhi.

Police documents show the woman had filed a case with police in Unnao, alleging she was raped at gun-point in December, 2018.

Her alleged rapist was released suddenly last week after securing bail, a police spokesperson said. It is not the first time that even the Unnao district has made headlines over a rape case.

Police opened a murder investigation in July against a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after he allegedly orchestrated a fatal car crash against a minor who had accused him of rape.

During Monday’s outpouring of anger, one member of parliament suggested that India’s rape problem could only be solved by publicly lynching attackers.

On Thursday, police in the state of Madhya Pradesh confirmed they had arrested a man on suspicion of raping and murdering a 4-year-old girl on December 1. Local media also reported a teenager was allegedly gang-raped and killed in the state of Bihar on Tuesday.

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