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India Gang Rape Prompts Human Rights Watch To Urge Reform Of Sexual Assault Laws & End 'Two-Finger Test'

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UPDATE: Indian Gang Rape: Five Men Charged With Rape & Murder

The brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student in India has led a human rights group to urge the government to reform sexual assault laws.

On the same day the gravely injured victim died, Human Rights Watch published a report which points out India does not have set protocol for the medical treatment and examination of survivors of sexual assault.

It says many doctors continue to rely on the humiliating and degrading "two-finger test", which involve noting the "laxity" of the vagina or hymen, "apparently to determine whether the victims are 'virgins' or 'habituated to sexual intercourse'.

indian gang rape protests

The attack has prompted protests and pushed women's rights to the top of the social agenda

"Often doctors, police and judges look for evidence of 'struggle' or 'injuries', especially hymenal injuries, in the medical examination report, discrediting those who do not report such injuries."

The group was among 90 bodies which petitioned the India government for such reforms in 2010 and now repeats its call in the aftermath of the incident, which saw the woman suffer multiple organ failure and a heart attack.

It adds: "The Indian government should establish national standards and a uniform protocol for the medical treatment and collection of medical evidence in cases of sexual assault, and to eliminate the use of finger tests on sexual assault survivors."

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Jo Wood, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis in England and Wales, branded the test "disgusting".

She said: "While forensic examinations can be intrusive, the survivor is treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

"The two-finger test is absolutely appalling. It is another sexual assault and in this country it would be defined as such."

The National Crime Records Bureau says 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011, although the number of unreported cases is believed to be much higher.

During the rape, the victim was attacked by six men on a bus. A metal rod was inserted in her body as the bus drove around for 40 minutes. The sustained attack resulted in the removal of almost all of her intestines.

The victim and a male friend, who was also attacked, were thrown from the bus while it was still moving. Police in Delhi said the bus then tried to mow them down.

Amid calls for the government to revise its rape laws, her family has agreed to waive her anonymity if new legislation is named 'in honour' of her.

india rape suspects

Some of the hooded suspects being led into court

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, her brother said: "She was not scared of anyone. We could never imagine that such a fate would befall her... She must never have imagined it."

Her mother father relived their final moments with their daughter, as she lay dying in the Singapore hospital she had been transferred to for expert treatment. Her father told the BBC her last words were "Mummy, I am sorry, I am sorry."

Six people have been arrested for the attack. The suspects are likely to face the death penalty if found guilty, despite the sentence rarely being passed in India.

A DNA test is currently being conducted on the sixth suspect as he claims to be under 18, reported the Hindustan Times. Under Indian law juveniles cannot be prosecuted for murder.

Amid a renewed campaign to tackle the widespread and often unreported incidents of violence against women, the government has been galvanised into action. More police night patrols have been set up, buses with tinted windows or curtains have been banned and drivers of public transport are now subject to more checks, reported the BBC.

A telephone helpline has also been set up.

However social activists insist not enough is being done to tackle India's rape culture.

New Delhi has emerged as the 'rape capital' of India, with 25% of cases across the whole of India occurring in the capital, according to an Al Jazeera report.

A woman is raped in Delhi every 14 hours, according to figures quoted by the BBC.

Despite this, official figures show that there was only one conviction for rape in the whole of 2012. On 26 December, a 17-year old girl who had been gang-raped in Delhi was found dead, a note by her body blaming her attackers.

It had taken over two weeks for her case to even be registered, amid allegations that officers had pressured her to withdraw her case and marry her attacker.

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