By Mick Krever and Sumnima Udas, CNN
Last December, India was shaken to its social foundations by the brutal gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old woman on a bus ride home from the movies.
The four men who raped her were sentenced to hang; CNN’s Sumnima Udas spoke with the victim’s mother, father and the doctor who examined her, who said she suffered the most atrocious injuries he had ever seen.
The case has affected “every aspect of Indian society,” Kiran Bedi, India's first high-ranking female police officer and now a social activist told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“It's made the criminal justice system move – whether it's the policing, whether it's the prosecution, whether the judiciary, even the legislature.”
Whenever there is an instance of sexual abuse in India – no matter how far flung the locale – the media is doing a better job of promoting awareness.
“The questions are asked: What is the political system doing or…how is the criminal justice system responding,” she said. They are “all on notice.”
The young woman who was raped and killed, her mother told Udas, was like “any other regular girl.”
She was “very sensible and intelligent, right from childhood,” the mother said. “She was passionate about studying, wouldn't miss even a day of school, even if we asked her to.”
On the night of December 16, moments after the young girl and her friend boarded a bus, five male passengers grabbed her.
Her friend was badly beaten, and she was gang raped – the men taking turns, even violating her with an iron rod – while the bus drove around the city for almost an hour. The men dumped the young woman and her friend on the side of the road, left for dead.
Waves of protests erupted nationwide.
“The best is [that] the men have taken up, taken to the streets, for causes concerning women,” Bedi said. “So while women of course were walking the streets for causes, but men have joined in because it's become a common cause.”
The police in especially rural India have some way to go in policing rape, Bedi said, and women in rural communities are often less likely to report crimes committed against them.
But the wholesale change in the way media covers rape, she said, has had a profound effect on the police.
“People are now afraid of getting named and shamed,” she said. “So I think it's even shaken them up.”
Even the definition of rape has changed, she told Amanpour.
One of the most egregious practices in India has been the euphemistically named “two-finger test,” in which the police used to violate girls and women to test whether they had been raped.
Now, “if any part of man's body, any part of man's body violates a woman's body, it is coming under the rape,” she said.
Nonetheless, the horrible cases of rape are still happening.
“It's still a battle between – for women to get their human right to security, and also face the men, who refuse to change or still think women are for entertainment and it's a right to violate their bodies.”