Gang Rape Case Ignites National Protests
Protests spread throughout India in late Dec. 2012 when a 23-year-old woman died after being gang raped by several men in a moving bus in Delhi. The woman had to be flown to Singapore after three abdominal operations at a Delhi hospital, where her intestines were removed due to damage done by a metal rod during the attack. Police said the attackers would be charged with murder. Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress Party, said in a rare television appearance, "As a woman, and mother, I understand how protestors feel. Today we pledge that the victim will get justice."
The trial for the five men accused of the gang rape began in late January 2013. The men were charged with robbery, gang rape, and murder. Lawyers for the men said they would all plead not guilty.
In early Feb. 2013, India's government approved new, stiffer laws for sexual violence against women. The new laws included the death penalty in certain cases. The laws were a direct response to the nationwide outrage over the gang rape case. Parliament also created a special court that would hear rape cases much more quickly than India's regular justice system. Reports of sexual assault and rape skyrocketed in 2013 which suggested more willingness to come forward about these crimes since the country's new laws.
Ram Singh, the apparent driver of the bus, was found hanging in his jail cell on March 11, 2013. Officials ruled his death as suicide, but Singh's family said he was killed. On Aug. 31, a 17-year-old participant was convicted for his part in the gang rape; he was sentenced to three years in a special juvenile correctional facility. On Sept. 13, Judge Yogesh Khanna had this to say: "In these times when crimes against women are on the rise, the court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act," as he handed down a sentence of death by hanging for each of the four convicted men.