MANDWARA KALAN, India (Reuters) - The father of the 23-year-old woman whose gang rape and death sparked public outrage against the government has demanded that those responsible be hanged and he called for new legislation on sex crimes to be named in honour of his daughter.
The December 16 attack on the physiotherapy student and a male companion provoked furious protests close to the seat of government in New Delhi and has fuelled a nationwide debate about the prevalence of sexual crimes in India, where a rape is reported on average every 20 minutes.
The woman died of her injuries in hospital in Singapore, where she had been taken for treatment, on Saturday.
Five men and a teenager have been arrested in connection with the attack. The five men were due to be formally charged on Thursday. Murder carries the death penalty in India.
The father of the woman said he backed the chorus of calls for those responsible to be executed.
“The whole country is demanding that these monsters be hanged. I am with them,” the father told reporters in his home village of Mandwara Kalan in Uttar Pradesh.
The woman has not been identified and nor have members of her family, in accordance with Indian law.
The woman was born in the village but the family soon moved to the capital, New Delhi.
The father said he was demanding a change in the law to allow for the execution of juveniles. One of the six accused has been reported to be under the age of 18.
The studious, ambitious young woman was determined to improve life in her village, the father said.
“She said ‘papa, the place of your birth is very backward, if I become a doctor I will first improve life in the village,'” the father said.
Days of protests in New Delhi and other cities followed the attack. Many of the protesters have been students, infuriated by what they see as the failure of the government to protect women.
The case against the five accused is due to be processed by a new, fast-track chamber set up in response to the crime. The teenager is due to be tried in a juvenile court.
Hanging is only allowed in the “rarest of rare” cases under Indian law. It was used for the first time in eight years in November when the lone surviving gunman from a 2008 militant attack on Mumbai, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, was executed.
Police have said the accused have admitted to torturing and raping the student “to teach her a lesson.”
She fought back and bit three of them, a police source told Reuters, and the bite marks are part of the evidence against them.
After throwing her from the private bus, the driver tried to run the victim over but she was pulled away by her companion, a senior police official told Reuters.
Police have prepared a dossier of evidence and charges against the accused believed to run to 1,000 pages, including testimony from the woman’s friend who survived the hour-long attack on the bus, and a man who said he was robbed by the same gang prior to the rape.
The woman’s father told reporters he supported a proposal to name revised legislation in his daughter’s honour.
“She is the one who has been sacrificed,” he said.
The government has set up two panels headed by retired judges to recommend measures to ensure women’s safety. One of the panels, due to make recommendations later this month, has received some 17,000 suggestions from the public, media reported.
The district court where the charges are due to be heard is expected to assign a defence lawyer for the five men after the bar association said none of its members were willing to represent them.
Lawyers in black robes protested outside the court on Thursday, demanding the judicial system act faster against rape.
“We want the laws to be amended in such a stringent way that before a person even thinks of touching a girl, he should feel chills down his spine,” said protesting lawyer Suman Lata Katiyal.
Additional reporting by Diksha Madhok and Annie Banerji in NEW DELHI; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Robert Birsel