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Gang Rape in New Delhi Sparks ‘Soul Searching’ for Treatment of Women

January 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Margaret Warner talks to New York Times reporter Heather Timmons about the details of the rape and murder charges over the death of 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi, plus a spreading national discussion and fury over the treatment of women in India.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Earlier today, Margaret Warner talked to New York Times reporter Heather Timmons in New Delhi.

MARGARET WARNER: Heather Timmons, thank you for joining us.

What can you tell us about the suspects in this case?

HEATHER TIMMONS, The New York Times: Right now, there’s not a whole lot of information available about the suspects.

There are two brothers. They were six friends that hung out together. At least four of them lived in the same neighborhood. One of them is from Bihar. One of them right now is being tried as a juvenile, although that is a matter of some debate. I believe that he is going to be — his actual bone density is going to be tested to see whether he’s 17 or 18 and can be tried as an adult.

One was a fruit seller and one of them was a cleaner. I mean, they were all — I believe they were all from outside of Delhi doing, maybe not odd jobs, but not full-time career professional jobs around the city.

MARGARET WARNER: And what’s emerged about the police’s theory of the case,for example, on whether this was an opportunistic crime or preplanned?

HEATHER TIMMONS: Well, if you look at the charges that were filed, they are being accused of basically preplanning the crime.

The charge includes something called conspiracy. So, according to the police earlier, what the men did is went on the bus, rode around on what the police called a joyride, picked up someone else at one point, who they beat up and threw off, and then picked up this couple afterwards. So it’s being considered a premeditated crime.

MARGARET WARNER: What’s known about what kind of evidence the police have amassed?

HEATHER TIMMONS: The police have filed a charge sheet with the court, which is not made public yet and none of us have seen it yet. It is expected to run into the hundreds of pages.

Right now, the only information we have about specific evidence in there is that they have said that there is DNA evidence against all of the gentlemen who have been charged with a crime.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, the victim’s name isn’t being made public, but her family is talking?

HEATHER TIMMONS: The woman’s name has been withheld, which is not always the case, actually, in rape cases in India. But her family has come forward. Her uncle — she’s from a small village in Uttar Pradesh.

Her uncle was quoted talking about how her family had paid for her education and her brothers — her parents had not much money and her father worked at the airport working double shifts so that she could pursue an education.

MARGARET WARNER: Has anything concrete come out of all of the outrage and protest that this case has generated?

HEATHER TIMMONS: A couple concrete things have emerged.

The Supreme Court or the — I’m sorry — the judicial committee has set up a three-member committee to sort of review how crimes against women are treated in general. They’re going to come out with a report in about a month.

The fast — a fast-track court was set up in Delhi, which is where this trial is being held, to deal with crimes like this.

And there was a hot line set up for women in Delhi. And the Delhi police have pledged to set up a public registry of offenders, people that are convicted sexual offenders, which will include their photos and names and addresses.

We have also seen around the rest of the country in other states some of them making some of the same moves, talking about setting up fast-track courts, talking about setting up registries.

MARGARET WARNER: What sort of public discussion has it sparked about what’s at the root of the high rate of sexual assaults in general in India?

HEATHER TIMMONS: It has really sparked a huge amount of — many still are calling it soul-searching. There seems to be an incidence in crimes which involve packs of men attacking women.

There are a lot of theories being thrown around about why those are happening. One of them involves sort of the extra men, as they’re called, because India has had a long history of female feticide. And there are about 15 million extra men. And by extra, I mean more than there are women between ages of 15 and 35.

Some people say that these extra men sort of clump together in packs when they’re unmarried and go out and commit crimes. And violent crime is on the rise significantly. So that’s one theory.

In northern India, there’s also a lot of discussion just about how men are taught to treat women. Are they raised to respect them? Are women considered property? Are they considered someone that’s at the same level as you or not?

And so those are the kind of discussions that are happening here.

MARGARET WARNER: And what happens next?

HEATHER TIMMONS: What happened today was the police filed charges to the court. The court will review them and then there will be an actual court trial that will start. And this will be in the fast-track trial.

We’re under the impression actually that the judge may be a woman who has been pretty active before on crimes against women, so that might make a very interesting situation.

MARGARET WARNER: Heather Timmons of The New York Times in New Delhi, thank you.

HEATHER TIMMONS: All right, thank you so much.