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Prominent Indian lawyer wary of rape investigations

January 3rd, 2013
06:04 PM ET

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.

MORE: New Delhi gang-rape suspects charged with murder

“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Not only are police practices outdated in India, Singh says, the police institutions often reflect the patriarchal and “male bias attitude” of Indian society toward rape.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.

Indian rape debate: Why death penalty is no solution

Filed under:  India • Latest Episode
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Curious

    Who does the two finger test a police officer or a medical doctor?

    January 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Reply
    • Amit

      Sounds like a proper messed up country if this is how they conduct medical tests on rape victims. The other day I heard they are going to be conducting a 'bone marrow test' to determine if the youngest offender is above or below the age of criminal responsibility. Bone Marrow Test?! What is with this country. Why can't they just follow example from around the world where tried/tested methods exist.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:20 am | Reply
      • Ryuke

        Bone Marrow Test?? Did you even try to verify that information. The test is based on fusion of bone ossification centers which is determined from an X-Ray.
        That 2 finger test is not done by police. It is done by a female doctor at a hospital. And it is standard procedure in most countries to determine bruises, lacerations etc which is essential evidence necessary for prosecution and not just perforated hymen as the article implies. It seems Kirti Singh and co are just looking for some cheap publicity. To people like those – Please spare a thought for the victim.

        January 4, 2013 at 6:46 am |
      • Prettygal

        You are a Pakistani troll, you fool no one

        January 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm |
  2. kess

    Are India and China aiming for eventual extinction?
    Their breeding practises prioritising males, and treating the few precious females this way unchecked – well eventually they will become extinct.
    Or, another reason for them to invade with their enormous male armies.

    January 3, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Reply
    • sandy

      Hope you use some sanity before writing or labeling whole country as male dominated...will be extinct.

      You are talking about greater than 40% of world population, worlds largest democracy and world's second largest economy. so don't show that you are fool. your comments show you are.

      Having said that, I have personally resolved after this incident that I will not tolerate such acts of eve teasing on street even if it means I am in harm's way and thats how educated breed of these nations think.

      I am not justifying what happened ... but what about while males shooting kids in america .... don't you think violence is dominant in western countries... why females in western countries take family name of male after marriage... and you are talking nonsense about other countries

      January 4, 2013 at 12:26 am | Reply
      • Jeff

        Ummm I am western and married. My wife kept her last name.. My sister got married, kept her last name. And I know many others who have done same.. Who in generalizing?

        January 4, 2013 at 2:55 am |
      • Amit

        Stop letting your patriotism blind you. There are serious problems you and your society need to address. Pointing fingers at others won't help you fix your own problems. And furthermore, if you're going to make comparisons, at least ensure they are valid for god's sake.

        January 4, 2013 at 6:22 am |
    • crabmeat

      Your generalisation is very offensive, it reflects how poor and illiterate a person you are. No wonder your country is in deep trouble because people like you inherited the land your ancestors owned by exterminating natives. You are no more noble than barbarian kidding on other misery and suffering. Let hope your offspring will receive the other end of treatment your ancestors inflicted upon natives.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:05 am | Reply
    • TD

      I don't think these rapists should be hung. That would be too easy. Castrate them. Line them up and castrate each of them with the world watching. Hold their parents responsible. Castrate the father not teaching the son how to respect women. Speak to mother about why she didn't instill values in her son. What kind of parents raise children that become adult rapists? What kind of role models are these parents? Only when we hold rapists and their parents responsible will we see some change!

      January 15, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  3. sadness

    To Whom it May Concern
    We, the people, demand not only justice, but reassurance that the safety of women is a basic right of any society in a civilization. Damini came from a hard-working, middle class family that taught gave her a moral upbringing and her passion to help people in her community in the medical field was just the beginning of her dreams and aspirations. This intelligent and beautiful young girl would have grown up to be a compassionate medical healer and one day would have been a mother herself and raised beautiful children. However, the barbaric acts of 6 men that night changed her life, her families, the nation, and the whole world.
    If Gandhi and Bhagat Singh are known as the “fathers of India” Damini will one day be known as the ‘DAUGHTER OF INDIA” Know that her innocence will not be forgotten and her sacrifice gone in vain. I have faith that for the countless acts of compassion and millions of hard-working, decent families, this atrocious, violent, and horrid crime will not be forgotten. However, it is up to all of us to remind the bad apples and ill karma individuals who are in the minority, that we the people will not be passive anymore. We will strike for reform and change and hold politicians and police personal accountable. We will strike when the iron rod is hot. And that time is NOW. If we forget or let Damini’s sacrifice be a temporary anger until the rapists are hanged, without affecting any long term legislation and law, this even will still be a daily occurrence for women. Just as Damini should be immortalized in history as the DAUGHTER OF INDIA, I as a male feel that hanging is too liberal of a punishment. These nameless cowards and womanizers should be a daily reminder to any would be perpetrator. I say, LET THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES LIVE WITH THEIR SINS. KEEP THEM INCARCERATED IN JAIL ON LIFE SENTENCES. LET THEM SUFFER EACH DAY, KNOWING THEIR LIFE IS MEANINGLESS AND THE BE AN ULCERATING WOUND AND REMINDER TO OUR SOCIETY that this is a disease. A corrupt disease from prince to pauper, from every race, religion and background. It infects societies like cholera and the only way we can live with ourselves is if we all stand up, united, and have a ZERO TOLERANCE policy towards abuse of ANY kind towards women. I am usually apathetic, but hearing of this tragedy has made me throw out passivity and think there are 1.5 billion of us, and the politicians and rapists that get away with these crimes number is but a few. A few rotten apples that spoil the bunch. I urge each and everyone one of you reading this to do a little soul searching and think what level you can tolerate.
    Though Damini may be unnamed, she represents every girl, every daughter, every mother, every wife. Women’s basic rights and safety and self-respect are threatened every day in the shadows. Every man came from a woman. Where there is Shiva, there is Shakti Mata. To deny the rights of one, is to do at your own karmic risk. Gangs, politicians, perverts, and womanizers can escape the eyes of the law or even bribe it. They cannot escape karma or Bhaagvaan/God/Raab/Allah. As dutiful humans it is up to us to fight these evils, because being passive during such barbaric violence is a sinful decision in passivity itself. The people on the bus that evening, watching and doing nothing, along with the police officers at checkpoints have to look at themselves in the mirror every morning realizing they let the DAUGHTER OF INDIA be raped in front of their eyes. We are all vulnerable to this disease of society. If we do not set harsher laws against rapist that even catch the highest levels of corruption, then India as a society will fall pray to passivity in this kaalyug. I say publish the name of each one of those 6 boys, their family, their community and let their names be popular as the ENEMIES OF INDIA and HUMANITY. Women’s rights, children’s rights are the top priority of any advanced society. Sikhism also acknowledges this equality between men and women. It is humans who discriminate and treat women so horrible. Don’t you have a mother/sister/daughter as well? What kind of life do you want for them? Even the RAPISTS have mothers. I SAY SHINE THEIR NAMES and their FAMILY NAMES on BILLBOARDS and POSTERS. SHAME them and let them live long, rotting in jail and be set as a living, decaying example of the monstrosity that plagues a society when the actions of a few cowards is tolerated. We, the people, have so much more potential as a civilization to root out this evil. Do not let fear and silence hush the voices of the majority of good-hearted people of India for a few rotten apples. MAKE THEIR NAMES be PUBLISHED on every STREET Corner of India! I am just a 13 year old nri boy, but when I am older like all of you, I want to fight for equal rights for all. This inspiration was Damini’s gift to me. What selfless gift did this innocent heroine teach all of you? To all of you men, women, and children protesting in India, you can hold your head up high and when the history books are written know you were on the side of righteousness. For those politicians that vote against any strict law to pass, may those congress members be recorded in history and their legacy be that of heartless womanizers. Aum Namah Shivai. Aum Parvathi Mataji Namah. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh. Please bring back Indian values to India because not many people are practicing vedic Indian lifestyle if you can discriminate between Shiv and Shakti. Jo Bole So Nihal sat sri akal.
    We the people, need to take our izaat back and we can do it. Though I am only 13, I feel there are still more decent people in the world than the minority of abusers. I want positive male role models to look up to! I do not want these 6 cowards to define my gender. Please help prove to me that the good of the common hard-working family and their values has not been lost. Make Damini the DAUGHTER of INDIA so that one day I can tell me children about her when I teach them about Gandi and Bhagat Singh when teaching them about India. Make me proud to be an Indian man, who protects women and treats them as life long companions and equals, not as toys. Equal pay for equal work is a far off issue when something as simple as women’s safety and izaat is still a challenge world-wide. Everyone of you has a Damini in your life. Help keep her safe! If you agree with even one thought I wrote, please post, forward this to as many people as possible. Awareness is the first step.

    January 3, 2013 at 8:38 pm | Reply
    • Longan1506

      Humans beings of Android era do not read long messages.

      January 4, 2013 at 5:24 am | Reply
      • Amit

        Indeed – what a long post.

        January 4, 2013 at 6:10 am |
    • Sumunder (Sumner Stone)

      I read your thoughtful, inspiring commentary. I hope that many others will take the time to read it through. Parenthetically, if you really are just 13, you exhibit rare maturity.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:14 am | Reply
    • dzey

      very mature for 13yrs, I pray you see all you asked for come to fruition. I hope you and others that feel as you do speak out.

      January 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Reply
  4. Myra Diphyto

    I am shocked at the two-finger 'rape investigation' by Indian police. This tragic case has opened up the biggest can of worms in the world. It's a shame that the final straw had to be another innocent woman's death from being raped with a rusty metal pipe. What has India become? The eyes of the world are shocked.

    January 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm | Reply
    • Amit

      The country India is a laughing stock. Thankfully though, through social media they have a better connected middle and upper class who can come together like this to voice their opinion and take to the streets to demand that this certain section of their society who behave like Neanderthals thinking it's ok to harass women as they please in public – verbally, physically or even just by staring at them, are dealt with sternly. They need to make this behaviour socially unacceptable. They need to stop using terms such as 'eve-teasing' to describe what in fact is harassment. This country needs better education. More people in education, better infrastructure, less corruption. India is still a few decades away from any of that. Though speak to most Indians prior to this event, and they are oblivious – they think they're on par with Europe and America. Fools.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:16 am | Reply
      • Prettygal

        You are a Pakistani troll

        January 8, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  5. Pres

    This all boils down to one thing `CORRUPTION', which is very high in India and much higher than Pakistan. At least in Pakistan, the Judiciary is not that corrupt, but in India, Police and Judiciary is badly corrupt.

    January 4, 2013 at 2:48 am | Reply
    • Amit

      It doesn't boil down to corruption. Corruption only prevents money that should be spent on the country, being spent on it in the first place. How does corruption allow for people to be harassed in the first place? It doesn't. This is all down to education, culture and social responsibility.

      January 4, 2013 at 6:18 am | Reply
  6. Anita Australia

    yes...the latest news is the shocker!...any news now coming out of India after this violent rape/murder is a shock to us all. I personal y never even knew the way women/girls are treated in India. Because they are counted as a democracy and have women as PM holding the highest office in a land and other high jobs/positions....sure they have poor people but with over a billion of them, there will be poverty as well...there should be examination in hospital after every rape with collection of DNA AND very speedy arrests and trials especially when the perpetrators are known to the victim and the victim is still alive to talk about it...the world is reading and watching....there MUST be improvement in India soon or they will be having never ending protests and marches...or the mob will be dealing with the rapists in their own way...

    January 4, 2013 at 2:52 am | Reply
  7. Warid

    Why not the world take steps against rape . All over the world shout about indian rape . But Bagnladesh is heaven country of rape . Manik is the one of the BANGLADESHi 100 rape in University . and he take festival after it . but our prime minister. end it by smell this is un believable ! please come Bangladesh & observed it

    January 4, 2013 at 9:17 am | Reply
  8. Kerry

    I spent some time in India and I liked the women but there seemed to be something off about the men. Many didn't display common sense. This incident only strengthens my viewpoint about them. Their law enforcement is there to protect the strong instead of the most vulnerable. It's backwards from a civilized society. It is inspirational to see the people finally demanding change. Passive behavior won't get the women equality. Men will continue to struggle to hold on to their advantage. It's a fight worth having. The time is now. You have the world's attention. Woman's rights are reverberating around the globe.

    January 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  9. edward amanor

    The whole world must stand up to fight this canker. This must be seen as an affirmative action to stop RAPE all over the world. Damini must be the light. The BEACON that must end rape in our societies.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  10. arvind

    the criminals in India raple should be hanged to death. Zeor tolerance in this matter. I am also ashemed to be an Indian.

    India needs dictator ship. They are too corrupt, greedy , selfish and morons that some body from outside should rule them as British wer ruling them. They don't deserve freedom.

    Burn all of them.

    Also shame to all who run India to take this case at this extent.

    Shame – shame – shame!!!


    January 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  11. arvind

    It is ashamed for the whole country when things happen like this, I am also very scared to come to India.

    The whole system is corrupted – all 6 men should be punished brutly – I wish and pray to God to hear my pray.

    And the indian public now should take all the actions in their hands.

    I think – Only dictator ship is right for India –

    If rape victim made a mistake not to beg for life to those 6 men, I think our Guru Govind singh ji also made a mistake to sacrifice his and his family life for the nation. Also Bhagat singh made a mistake to sacrificed his life for india independency.

    Now India needs resolutions. Those who will encourage these types of crimes – will be punished in God court.

    January 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  12. arvind

    I pray to god for rape vitim stay in peace. Give strength to her family.

    Also wish the worst for all 6 men – they have earned worst karma for long long time for themselves and they will suffer for ever – God was watching everything at that time when raple of happening, But did not say anything becuase he was testing them all.

    Victim passed and now she is resting in peace where she is just soul – not woman any more, but others 6 failed the test and will pay the huge price for this horrble crime. God will never let them go! And he will not forgive them.

    January 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  13. John Geheran

    I hear your pain. But be careful what you wish for.

    January 15, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Reply
    • arvind

      I am sorry I was not wish for this, but I am very very upset for this tragedy.

      January 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Reply
    • arvnd

      I am really sorry I should not wish for this, I also sid sorry to God. Thanks for your great advise. I will not say this any more in my life.


      January 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm | Reply
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