NEW DELHI (AP) — Police detained three men for questioning Tuesday in the rape and murder of a law student whose body was found mutilated in southern India, officials said.
The case has drawn comparisons to the deadly 2012 gang rape of a woman on a New Delhi bus that sparked widespread outrage and nationwide protests demanding an end to the widespread sexual assault and abuse of women across India.
The autopsy on the 30-year-old victim in Kerala state revealed she had been sexually penetrated by sharp objects before being murdered in her home on Thursday in Perumbavoor, a city on the outskirts of the major city of Kochi, according to Press Trust of India news agency, citing police sources. Home Minister Ramesh Chennitala said, however, that the full autopsy report was not yet complete, and so he was unable to confirm that a rape had happened.
"Police are working very hard on solving this case," Chennitala told reporters.
On Tuesday, police arrested three men for questioning, but could not immediately say if they were suspected of taking part in the crime.
The family is from the Dalit community, considered the lowest caste in India's centuries-old social hierarchy. PTI reported that the victim's body was discovered by her mother.
The state's chief minister, Oommen Chandy, has described the crime as "shocking." Women outraged over the case have staged protests.
Taboos against speaking about sexual assault are believed to make India's women and children more vulnerable to sexual violence and harassment.
Experts say that has started to change since the fatal gang rape of the 23-year-old woman in 2012, after which the government rushed through legislation to double prison terms for rape, and to criminalize voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. But activists say more action is needed, including better educating youths and adding basic safety infrastructure such as street lights and public bathrooms.