Body of India gang-rape victim arrives in New Delhi
Published Saturday, December 29, 2012 7:22AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, December 29, 2012 11:14PM EST
The body of a woman whose vicious gang-rape sparked protests throughout India and incited a national debate about violence against women arrived in New Delhi early Sunday morning local time.
The 23-year-old medical student died Saturday at a hospital in Singapore after suffering brain injuries and severe internal damage following a Dec. 16 attack on a public bus.
Meanwhile, New Delhi police said Saturday the six men accused in the gang rape will face the death penalty if convicted.
Police charged the men with murder a few hours after the rape victim had died.
The case has sparked outrage in India and put a spotlight on the widespread sexual violence often endured by women in the country. It has also prompted near-daily demonstrations in New Delhi and across the country.
Several politicians have spoken out about the case, promising to bring about change.
“The government will work overtime to try and bring about laws and steps that will ensure that no other person, no other citizen of this country, has to go through or undergo the same kind of trauma,” India's Home Affairs minister, Ratanjit Pratap Narain Singh told reporters.
President of the Congress Party Sonia Gandhi said: “It deepens our determination to battle the pervasive, the shameful social attitudes and mindset that allow men to rape and molest women and girls with such impunity.”
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he was aware of the emotions the attack has stirred, adding it was up to all Indians to ensure that the young woman's death will not have been in vain.
Following news of the young woman’s death, The Associated Press’ South Aisa Bureau Chief Ravi Nessman said the protests in New Delhi turned from anger to sadness and grief.
“This is kind of an awakening of sorts,” Ravi told CTV News Channel from India on Saturday. “This is the first time women have gathered to protest the kind of daily violence many of them put up with.”
The very public tragedy has forced India to confront a culture in which sexually assaulted women are often blamed for the crimes against them and who therefore rarely report even serious incidents.
Police often refuse to accept complaints from those who do report rape, and the few cases that reach the court can drag on for years. There are more than 40,000 rape cases before the Indian courts.
“Usually they suffer this in silence and this case kind of galvanized the country and many of them said ‘we’ve had enough’,” Ravi added. “Whether this is enough to get politicians to react, it’s unclear, but it could at least be a starting point.”
After news of the woman’s death broke, police sealed off large parts of downtown New Delhi to protect the high-security India Gate area, where the seat of India's government is located. They also shut down a number of metro railway stations and asked people not to travel into the city.
Despite a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, about 4,000 people gathered at the Jantar Mantar observatory for a silent protest Saturday, with placards demanding government action on women's safety issues.
There was obvious mourning on the streets for the victim, but protesters remained firm in their demands for government action and legislation.
Actor Anupam Kher tweeted: "This is NOT the time to shut down Metros, India Gate or India. This is the time to Apologise,Say SORRY for letting People down."
Filmmaker Shekar Kapur used Twitter to call for a larger, quieter protest that brings the country together: "Her greatest betrayal is that we will forget. Political systems greatest hope is we will forget.R only redemption is if we do not forget. On d stroke of d midnight hour. On 31st December.I will stand in silence in Her memory. Will you, or will u party on?"
The victim and a male friend were on a public bus when they were attacked by six men who took turns raping her after beating both of them with an iron rod. The attacks continued while the bus made its way through the city, even passing through police checkpoints.
The woman, whose identity has not been revealed, suffered severe organ damage after the iron rod was inserted into her body repeatedly. The victim’s friend was badly beaten but doctors say his injuries are not life-threatening.
As the country attempts to come to terms with the trauma of the New Delhi gang-rape, two other brutal incidents of rape came to light elsewhere in India.
On Thursday a 17-year-old woman killed herself after a gang-rape she reported to police in Punjab state a month earlier was not taken seriously. Local media reported that police harassed the girl instead of taking action against the accused.
State authorities suspended one police officer and fired two others on accusations that they delayed investigating and taking action in the case. The three accused in the rape were arrested on Thursday night.
Earlier this week, local media reported that a two-year-old girl died of her injuries three days after she was raped by a distant relative in the country’s Panchmahal district.
With a report from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian