Lawyer: India Rape Accused Were Tortured

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 10 2013 11:31 AM

India Rape Accused Were Tortured by Police, According to Lawyer who Blames Victim

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The lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma said he has never heard of a "respected lady" being raped

Photo by SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images

The lawyer for three of the men charged with gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old Indian student says the suspects were tortured by police. Manohar Lal Sharma tells the Guardian that the suspects were “brutally assaulted” by police officers. "They were beaten most brutally,” he said. “They were forced to drink urine and from the toilet. They were sexually assaulted with sticks in their backside.” Five men between the ages of 19 and 35 could face the death penalty for the Dec. 16 attack on a physiotherapy student and her male friend on a bus in New Delhi. A sixth accused is 17 and will be tried separately in a juvenile court. "All these people have been tortured badly. It's under pressure that they have made statements in court," Sharma said, according to the BBC.

Indian police frequently face criticism for abusing detainees and the interrogation of the suspects took place without lawyers present. In fact, Thursday was the first time the accused appeared in court accompanied by defense attorneys, points out Reuters. As he cries his clients’ innocence though, Sharma also blamed the victim for the attack, telling Bloomberg in a shocking interview that he had never heard of a “respected lady” being raped in India. Well, really, the blame starts with her male friend, who was “wholly responsible” for the incident since everyone knows unmarried couples shouldn’t be out in the street at night. “If a man fails to protect the woman, or she has a single doubt about his failure to protect her, the woman will never go with that man.”

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Consider for a moment that the man who uttered these words is a 56-year-old Supreme Court lawyer and it becomes clear just how widespread this mindset is in India. In fact, a member of parliament said Thursday that the “rape of grown-up girls and women might be understandable,” adding that anyone who commits this crime on “on an infant … should be hanged,” reports the Times of India.

Earlier this week, a spiritual guru, Asharam, sparked outrage when he said the victim shared blame in the attack because she should have “chanted God’s name and fallen at the feet of the attackers” to stop the rape. 

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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