Candlelit vigil held for Delhi bus rape victim, one year on from attack


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Students, Bollywood actresses and women’s groups held rallies and candlelight vigils across India on Monday in memory of a young woman whose fatal gang rape on a bus a year ago shook the nation.

The victim, a 23-year-old student, was heading home with a male friend when six men lured them onto a private bus, beat the man with a metal bar and raped and the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal injuries.

The two were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later.

In Delhi, a candlelight vigil was held by students in memory of Nirbhaya, or “fearless”, the name given to the woman because rape victims cannot be identified in Indian law.

The attack sparked protests across the country. Tens of thousands of people held daily rallies, and newspapers gave intense coverage. The outrage spurred the government to adopt more stringent laws that doubled prison terms for rape and criminalised voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women. Fast-track courts were created for rape cases.

Rape, rarely talked about in India's deeply conservative society, became front-page news, with demands that police do more to protect women and that courts treat sexual violence seriously.

Nirbhaya's assailants were tried relatively quickly in a country where sexual assault cases often languish for years.

Four of the defendants were sentenced to death. Another hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was killed. An 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack was sentenced to three years in a reform home.

There has been a surge in the number of rapes being reported: Between January and October this year, 1,330 rapes were reported in Delhi and its suburbs, compared with 706 for all of 2012, according to government figures.

But the victim's father said that although laws on crimes against women have changed, Indians need to change social attitudes toward women.

"Social mindsets have to change. Only then can we say a difference has been made. Only then can I say my daughter did not die in vain," he told the public meeting.