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Alleged rape of 5-year-old spurs protests, reflection in India

By Mark Morgenstein and Aliza Kassim, CNN
updated 5:40 AM EDT, Mon April 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Indian prime minister says India needs "vast improvements" on women's safety
  • The alleged rape of a 5-year-old girl has sparked demonstrations all weekend in India
  • The girl is recovering and is in stable condition, doctors say
  • This is the latest high-profile alleged rape in India, after a gang rape on a bus in December

(CNN) -- While a 5-year-old victim of an alleged rape recovers in a New Delhi hospital, India's prime minister admits that his country has "vast improvements to make" when it comes to "the safety, security and status of women in our society," and protesters are taking to the streets of the Indian capital.

The little girl is stable, conscious and alert, her doctor, D.K. Sharma, said Sunday.

The girl's neighbor, who allegedly raped her, was arrested in Bihar state in eastern India, then brought to New Delhi in police custody, city police spokesman Rajan Bhagat said. The suspect is expected in court Monday and will not be eligible for bail, Bhagat said.

Indian police say the suspect abducted the 5-year-old last Sunday, locked her in his house and brutally raped her repeatedly before she was found semiconscious Wednesday on the ground floor of her building.

Opinion: India can learn respect for women

Activists and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party protest against the rape of a 5-year-old girl in Hyderabad on Tuesday, April 23. Demonstrations have taken place across the state since a man was arrested in the rape of the girl in New Delhi. There have been high-profile assaults in India since December, when a woman was gang raped on a bus. See photos of outrage over the sexual assault in December. Activists and supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party protest against the rape of a 5-year-old girl in Hyderabad on Tuesday, April 23. Demonstrations have taken place across the state since a man was arrested in the rape of the girl in New Delhi. There have been high-profile assaults in India since December, when a woman was gang raped on a bus. See photos of outrage over the sexual assault in December.
Protest for 5-year-old victim
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Photos: Protest for 5-year-old victim Photos: Protest for 5-year-old victim
Using social media to end rape in India
Report: Rape every 22 minutes in India

Doctors said they had to remove foreign objects, including candle pieces and a small bottle, from the girl's genitals.

The assault came just four months after a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was gang raped in a moving bus, triggering seething protests in India. She later died at a Singapore hospital.

Criticized for what was seen as a slow response to the savage December attack, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was quick to issue a statement this time, calling the act "shameful."

Sunday, in a follow-up statement, Singh said, "The gruesome assault on a little girl a few days back reminds us once again of the need to work collectively to root out this sort of depravity from our society."

Protests have swept through New Delhi since Friday. Many demonstrators are members of a political party of a leading anti-corruption activist, Arvind Kejriwal.

Outside the prime minister's residence Sunday, nonviolent demonstrators conducted a sit-in. Video from CNN affiliate CNN-IBN showed police removing the protesters.

As the nation's media ran footage of a police officer slapping a female protester outside a hospital Sunday, Singh ordered strict action against the officer and anyone else who roughed up demonstrators. The offending officer was suspended, Bhagat said.

3 girls, allegedly raped, found dead in India well

5 men confess to gang-raping Swiss tourist in India

CNN's Harmeet Shah Singh contributed from New Delhi and Aliza Kassim from Atlanta.

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