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Anger over rape of girl, 3, as protesters demand death penalty

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Kashmir to demand the death penalty for a man who raped a three-year old girl.

Several people were injured in clashes with police after officers fired tear gas and used batons in an effort to disperse demonstrators throwing stones and blocking part of a highway.

It comes amid growing anger over sexual violence in the Indian-controlled region.

Clashes have taken place on the streets of Kashmir
Image: Thousands of people took to the streets to protest

According to police, the little girl was lured to an empty school by her neighbour and raped last Wednesday.

Her mother followed her screams to find her bleeding in a bathroom.

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There has been one arrest over the attack.

Police try to disperse protesters in Kashmir
Image: Police try to disperse protesters in Kashmir

Schools, businesses and shops had to be closed across the Himalayan region in response to a strike – organised by separatist cleric Moulana Masoor Abbas – in protest at the rape.

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Abbas told reporters: "We called for strike today to make people aware about growing incidents of rapes in the valley. We want justice for the victim."

The attack on the three-year-old came weeks after the suicide of a girl who was reportedly repeatedly raped by her own father, which increased the public's concerns over sexual violence.

Protests in Kashmir
Image: Protesters have called for the rapist to face the death penalty

Protesters say they no longer have faith in the authorities to keep girls and women safe, and have called for those found guilty of similar crimes to be given the death penalty.

Authorities asked for calm following the protests, which was followed by a pledge by local Muslim clerics to dedicate their Ramadan sermons to the rights of women.

Protesters say they no longer trust the authorities to protect women
Image: Protesters say they no longer trust the authorities to protect women

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), a council of Muslim religious leaders and scholars, said they wanted to address what they described as a rise in sexual violence against women in the region.

Government figures show that crimes against women have risen by 8% to 3,168 cases in 2017, from 2,915 in 2016.

Last year, there were national protests over the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Jammu and Kashmir state, leading the federal government to bring in the death penalty for rapists of girls under the age of 12.

The backlash was similar to the protests that followed the gang rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus in 2012, leading to new tougher rape laws.

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