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  • Nirbhaya's father (L) and mother (C) in New Delhi, India, March 20, 2020.

    Nirbhaya's father (L) and mother (C) in New Delhi, India, March 20, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 20 March 2020
Opinion

The rape, torture, and death of a 23-year woman unleashed an unprecedented wave of outrage in 2012.

After three postponements of the sentence, four men who raped a woman were executed on Friday, thus closing a case that transformed India's penal code and its tolerance towards gender violence.

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One Woman Reports a Rape Every 15 Minutes in India

On the night of December 16, 2012, a 23-year-old medical student was brutally raped and tortured on a running bus by six men, who later threw her onto the road without stopping the vehicle.

Nirbhaya or "Fearless," as the press called the woman, was rushed to a hospital in New Delhi and then transferred to a hospital in Singapore, where she died thirteen days later.

A court issued the death penalty for her rapists in 2013, and four years later the Supreme Court upheld the sentence. However, the rapists' lawyers managed to delay the sentence three times.

Nirbhaya's rape, torture, and death unleashed an unprecedented wave of outrage and numerous protests in the Asian country.

In March 2013, the social outcry reached the Indian Parliament, which approved an extensive legal change to toughen penalties for crimes against women.

The new legal texts raised the minimum sentence from 7 to 10 years for violations against adult women and from 10 to 20 years for violations against minors under 16 years of age.

In addition, capital punishment was established for those cases in which the rape victim was killed or remained in a vegetative state.

One of the most important innovations introduced by that law was the criminalization of sexual harassment and established penalties from three to seven years for those who committed it.

However, legislation passed after the Nirbhaya case, which also toughened punishments for acid attacks on women, did not criminalize rapes that occur within marriage.

In 2013, one of the rapists committed suicide in prison and another of the detainees was released in 2015 after serving three years of internment because he was a minor when he committed the crime.

His release generated more social outrage and, just two days later, the Indian Parliament approved legal changes whereby minors between the ages of 16 and 18 can be tried as adults and sentenced to long terms in prison.

In 2012, when the Nirbhaya case occurred, there were 24,206 complaints of rape in India; the following year, 33,764 complaints were filed.

Since then, on average, there have been more than 33,000 complaints a year, a figure that is partly due to increased social awareness of violence against women.

In 2018, India recorded 33,356 rape complaints, i.e. more than 90 rapes per day, according to the National Crime Registry Agency of India (NCRB).​​​​​​​

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