Can the Delhi Verdicts Change India’s Treatment of Women?
Image Credit: REUTERS -- Adnan Abidi

Can the Delhi Verdicts Change India’s Treatment of Women?


Asha Devi was a devastated woman on August 31 when a Juvenile Justice Court gave a lighter sentence of three years to one of the accused in her daughter’s brutal gang-rape case. On hearing the verdict, she broke down. Then, upon hearing the guilty verdict on Tuesday, the mother of the Delhi gang-rape victim became emotional and cried in relief.

The fast-track court hearing the rape case has found all four accused guilty of a criminal conspiracy to gang rape, murder and commit unnatural sexual acts on the young woman who died two weeks after she was brutally assaulted on a bus last December. Sentencing will take place on Friday.

A group of young activists gathered outside the Saket court in the national capital, demanding the death sentence for all of the accused. Shouting slogans and carrying placards demanding “death for all”, they enacted scenes of death on a gallows.

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The Delhi gang-rape case sparked widespread protest across the country earlier this year, and shook the establishment. Never before has the nation witnessed this kind of intense debate about sexual violence and the conditions for women in society. Despite the lapse of nine months the case has yet to fade from public memory. It still evokes passion and anger.

What angered people most was the sheer brutality of the case and the nature of the crime that took place in the heart of the nation’s capital, which is considered better governed than other cities in India. The court found that six men lured a young couple onto a moving bus on the night of December 16. They not only raped the young paramedic student but also barbarically brutalized her. The male friend was also attacked and suffered grievous injuries. The accused threw the couple out of the moving bus and left them to die on the street. Tuesday’s verdict revived the intense collective anger that still lingers nine months after the incident.

“It’s a relief for those who protested against the crime. It’s a judgment we will cherish forever. I am happy all four have been convicted,” Kavita, a student of Kamla Nehru College in Delhi, told The Diplomat. “The rape case has been an eye opener for everybody. Kudos to the judge who gave the verdict,”

Similar feelings have been expressed by Aanchal Vohra, an IT professional in Delhi who spent three days earlier this year protesting against the rape.

“It will bring change and next time if someone thinks of violating a woman the judgment will serve as a reminder of the consequences that await him if he commits the crime,” Vohra added. “I know that rape cases won’t stop suddenly but the verdict is a strong message to society.”

However, not all agree. In an interview, defense lawyer A.P. Singh said the verdict was “a wrong judgment delivered under intense public and political pressure.” He adds that he “would appeal to the High Court against the judgment. The case has not been tried by the court, but by the media and the verdict reflects that.”

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