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By Samuel Burke, CNN
The men accused in the brutal multiple-rape and killing of a 23-year-old Indian woman have been formally charged in a New Delhi court, but a leading Indian lawyer and women’s rights activist is calling attention to how Indian authorities commonly handle rape cases.
“Investigation by the police is extremely shoddy.” Kirti Singh tells CNN’s Fionnuala Sweeney. “They may not collect proper evidence.”
Police often carry out obscene physical exams on rape victims.
Singh says there is fairly widespread practice of using a two-finger vaginal examination to determine whether a woman was previously engaged in sexual intercourse and courts even look at evidence submitted from this type of assessment.
“We have asked for an immediate stop to this test and try to point out that it's neither scientific nor relevant and only ends up in humiliating and insulting the woman and there are several cases which show how this test has been misused to, you know, blame the victim or complainant of rape.”
Not only are police practices outdated in India, Singh says, the police institutions often reflect the patriarchal and “male bias attitude” of Indian society toward rape.
“That's why rapists seem to get away with the feeling that they will not be punished. And criminals act with impunity in our country,” she adds.
“People here have a mindset which commodifies women, which doesn't treat them as equal. And therefore, anything that you do to a woman is justified by saying that she may have invited it. If she wears a dress which reveals her legs, she invites rape. If she goes out with a boy, she invites rape. These justifications are plenty in our society.”
This tragedy is a watershed moment for India, Singh believes. The case has triggered a huge emotional reaction, which had been suppressed for many years, and which in turn has galvanized a larger group of previously silent citizens than ever before.
As for the Indian government? Singh hopes the authorities understand that they cannot ignore questions of women's rights and equality.
“I hope that they do realize that they cannot wish away such protests,” Singh says.