GENEVA/NEW DELHI - The UN's high commissioner for human rights called Monday for measures to help India rid itself of the "scourge" of rape, but rejected the death penalty for six men facing gang rape and murder charges.

Amid vigils and protests over the death of a 23-year-old student in a rape case that has caused international outrage, UN rights chief Navi Pillay said she hoped the incident would mark a turning point. "However terrible the crime, the death penalty is not the answer," the high commissioner said.

"What needed is a new public consciousness and more effective and sensitive enforcement of the law in the interests of women. India has shown through its social reform movements of the past that it can rid itself of a scourge like rape."

The unidentified medical student was repeatedly raped on a moving bus in New Delhi on December 16 and violated with an iron bar before being thrown from the vehicle. She died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital on Saturday. "I join Indians in all walks of life in condemning this terrible crime. Let us hope that 2013 will be the year the tide is turned on violence against women in India and all women can walk free without fear," Pillay said.

 "The public is demanding a transformation in systems that discriminate against women to a culture that respects the dignity of women in law and practice." Pillay added that the case was the latest in a series of rape cases that have sparked public concern and debate.

"In October, a 16 year-old Dalit girl committed suicide by self-immolation after being gang-raped in Haryana, a state from which an alarming level of sexual violence has been reported," she said. "This is a national problem, affecting women of all classes and castes, and will require national solutions.

"Now is the time to strengthen India's legal regime against rape," she added.

While the family of an Indian gang-rape victim said Monday they would not rest until her killers are hanged as police finalised their investigation before charges are laid against suspects this week. As the ruling Congress party reportedly pushed for tougher punishments for sex crimes, including chemical castration, authorities in New Delhi launched a hotline to improve safety for women in a city dubbed "India's rape capital".

Around 400 university students gathered in central Delhi on Monday, vowing to continue their "movement" until better safety measures are put in place and the guilty punished.

The dead woman, whom friends say was planning to marry in February, died of her injuries on Saturday in a Singapore hospital, nearly two weeks after being savagely attacked by men on a bus in New Delhi. She was cremated on Sunday.

"The fight has just begun. We want all the accused hanged and we will fight for that, till the end," her brother told The Indian Express in an interview published on Monday.

Delhi police said their probe was almost complete, pending the arrival of an autopsy report from doctors in Singapore and the conclusions of forensic experts, with charges to be unveiled on Thursday.

"It is up to the court to decide when the trial would begin," said police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.

Six men will face murder charges after allegedly luring the 23-year-old medical student onto a bus on December 16, and then taking it in turns to rape her and assault her with an iron bar before throwing her out of the moving vehicle.

The man whom she was hoping to marry, a 28-year-old software engineer, was also left with serious injuries after he too was attacked and dumped on the roadside.

Relatives told The Indian Express he had taken part in an identification parade of suspects at New Delhi's high-security Tihar jail.

While the country returned to work after a weekend marked by candlelit vigils and street protests, few people were in the mood to celebrate New Year. Many bars as well as the armed forces cancelled or toned down festivities.

Seeking to assuage anger at police and local officials for failing to prevent widespread violence against women, the Delhi government announced compensation of 1.5 million rupees ($27,348) for the family of the murdered woman and promised one of her relatives a job.

The young woman's father spoke of the impact of the tragedy on the family.

"My wife had hardly eaten in the last two weeks," he told the newspaper.

"She was exhausted... I think she was not ready to face the shock of our daughter's death, despite doctors always telling us that she was serious. She cried intermittently all of Saturday, but it got worse on the flight back home."

The father, who was at his daughter's bedside when she was pronounced dead in Singapore, said he too was struggling to accept the news.

"It is too painful. I have not gone inside her room. She was born in this house. Her books, clothes, they are all here," he said.

The attack has led to widespread calls for rapists to be executed in a country where the crime is so commonplace that it rarely gets a mention in the papers.

India does have the death penalty for "the rarest of rare" crimes although executions are only occasionally carried out.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was hanged last month but it was the first execution for eight years.