Death of rape victim prompts anger in India

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NEW DELHI -- Thousands of Indians poured into the streets of cities across the country yesterday to mourn the death of a young woman gang-raped nearly two weeks ago -- an incident that triggered a national conversation about violence against women.

Police announced that the six men arrested in connection with the attack were charged with murder after the woman, who suffered a brain injury and other internal damage, died Saturdayin Singapore, where she had been taken for care.

The government, responding to rising anger, promised to put the trial on a fast track.

"We have already seen the emotions and energies this incident has generated," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement yesterday. "These are perfectly understandable reactions from a young India and an India that genuinely desires change."

As night fell, many demonstrators gathered in cities across the country, holding candles in tribute to the victim.

To prevent a repeat of last week's massive protests, many streets in the capital were blocked by police and barricades, and 10 Metro stations were shut down yesterday.

The protesters, many of whom wore black tape across their mouths and held candles, were not allowed to march on the central boulevard, called India Gate, as they did last week. Police boxed them into a tiny street in the heart of the city where they sat on the ground chanting slogans and singing songs.

In other parts of the city, a steady stream of mourners also marched silently along sidewalks and in neighborhood parks.

"Every Indian girl has died with her today because we all felt so connected emotionally with her," Anubhuti Shukla, a 23-year-old communications intern, said as she texted her friends information about the candlelight vigil in New Delhi. "If we forget the issues after her death, it would be the real shame. She died, but she woke us up."

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The victim was returning home from a movie and had boarded a bus with a male friend on the night of Dec. 16 when four men, including the bus driver, allegedly beat them up and gang-raped her. The victims were then thrown out of the bus and left to die.

The government has set up two committees, one looking at ways to speed up sexual assault trials and the second charged with looking at lapses after the bus reportedly passed through several police checkpoints.

However, India's legal system is notoriously creaky and enforcement lax. Families are often afraid to report rapes, fearful of being publicly humiliated. In rural communities, where the stigma is greatest amid concerns that victims are "tainted goods," women are sometimes pressured into marrying their attackers.

With the Los Angeles Times

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