Officials carried out a bone test today to confirm the age of a young suspect in custody over the fatal assault and gang rape of a woman on a bus in India’s capital, while prosecutors will seek the death penalty for five men arrested with him.
The six will be formally charged in court tomorrow with the kidnap, gang rape and murder of the 23-year-old student in New Delhi on 16 December, police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. Reports say some 30 witnesses have been gathered, and the document detailing the charges runs to more than 1,000 pages.
Outraged Indians have been demanding the death penalty for the six men, holding demonstrations almost every day since the rape. Murder is punishable by death and rape by life imprisonment. But juveniles – those under 18 – cannot be prosecuted for murder.
The bone test is being conducted on the youngest suspect to determine whether he is a juvenile, a police officer said. If it shows he is 18 or older, he will be treated as an adult.
The brutality of the case has made Indians confront the reality that sexual violence is deeply entrenched in the society. Women face daily harassment, from catcalls on streets and groping in buses to rape. Often police refuse to accept complaints by female victims and even accuse them of inviting unwanted male attention. Families also dissuade victims from coming forward in the belief that it will ruin their reputations.
Activists hope the savage assault on the woman, a physiotherapy student, will make authorities take such cases more seriously.
The woman, who has not been identified, and a male companion were attacked when they boarded an off-duty bus to go home. The six men, including the bus driver, allegedly took turns at raping her and beat her with an iron bar. The woman was airlifted to Singapore for treatment but died on Saturday.
Protesters and politicians called for a special session of Parliament to pass new laws to increase punishments for rapists – including possible chemical castration.