Indians call for reform in wake of brutal rape

Indians call for reform in wake of brutal rape

Indians call for reform in wake of brutal rape

Updated 24 December 2012, 14:41 AEDT

An Indian student who was savagely gang-raped has begun to recount her ordeal to police, according to reports, as authorities reacted to violent protests by banning demonstrations in the capital.

The victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who had been battling for her life since the assault a week ago, gave her first statement to police late Saturday in the New Delhi hospital where she is being treated.

"All six men took turns to sexually assault me," the Hindustan Times newspaper quoted the victim as saying to police.

"They threw us on the side of the road where I then fainted."

Her answers to the questioning appeared to confirm most of the details that officers had already managed to piece together from a statement by her 28-year-old male companion who was also assaulted and thrown off the vehicle.

All six of the alleged attackers have now been arrested and remanded in custody.

Police say the six were drunk and were joy-riding in an off-duty bus with tinted windows when they picked the unsuspecting pair up as they were returning from a night out at the cinema.

The men then took turns in raping the student at the back of the bus, according to police and prosecutors.

During her assault, the victim suffered serious intestinal injuries from being beaten with an iron rod.

There have been a series of angry demonstrations over the attack in New Delhi and in other cities across the country.

In Delhi, police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters who had marched on government buildings in the city's centre.

Reporter killed

Elsewhere, police shot dead a television journalist when they opened fire during a protest against a sexual assault on a film actress in India's northeast, an official said.

The 36-year-old, who was working for the Doordarshan network, was "killed in police firing" in Imphal, capital of Manipur state, police spokesman A Singh said.

Manipur has been rocked by its own series of protests after the actress known as Momoko was dragged from stage in full public view last week by an armed militant belonging to a banned rebel outfit despite the presence of security personnel.

He then tried to rape her but she managed to fight him off and flee.

Momoko, also a popular model, has waived her right to anonymity and appealed on television for her attacker's arrest.

Anger over the attack on Momoko has been further fuelled by the outrage over the gang-rape in Delhi which has highlighted the levels of violence against women in India.

On Saturday, crowds had pelted stones at police in Imphal, damaging six of their vehicles, prompting authorities to impose a curfew in parts of the state.

The curfew was relaxed Sunday, after which a huge crowd of protestors assembled and confronted police who opened fire in retaliation, Mr Singh said.

The journalist died on the spot from one of the bullets, Mr Singh said.

National protests

The brutal attack has triggered a series of angry demonstrations in Delhi and in other cities across the country with protesters demanding the death penalty for the rapists and better security for women.

The government, stung by criticism that victims of sex assaults are often let down by India's notoriously slow justice system, has said it is considering bringing in the death penalty for the most extreme rape cases.

In the biggest protest so far, several thousand college students rallied at the India Gate monument in the heart of the capital, where they were baton-charged, water cannoned and tear gassed by the police.

One group of protesters camped overnight outside the residence of Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the main ruling Congress party.

"I am with you ... and justice will be delivered," Ms Gandhi told the protesters in an impromptu address after midnight, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.

Fearing more violent protests, police declared areas close to the president's residence and the parliament off-limits on Sunday and detained those who defied the orders.

All the routes leading to landmark government buildings were cordoned off and metro stations in the vicinity were closed to the public.

However, a small group did manage to gather beside India Gate on Sunday morning and another protest has been organised in an open area in an outlying neighbourhood which is not covered by the ban.

"We are here to protest a heinous crime. We have the right to protest," the PTI quoted one of the protesters at India Gate as saying.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the Congress-led government would look at "enhanced punishment in the rarest of rare rape cases" - a reference to capital punishment.

The current maximum penalty for rape is life imprisonment and "it (the death penalty) will have to be discussed in detail", Mr Shinde said.

India has executed two people since 2004 - one of whom was Mohammed Kasab, the sole surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The other was a criminal who raped and killed his schoolgirl victim.