Delhi women rally against rape
Thousands of women have taken part in a march in Delhi to protest against the recent gang rape of a 23-year-old medical student.
The victim died at the weekend from severe injuries she sustained during the December 16 attack in a bus. The incident has caused a national outcry.
Police are expected to charge five of six suspects with murder on Thursday.
If convicted, they could face the death penalty, which is rarely carried out in India.
The sixth suspect is reported to be under 18 and a juvenile. Police have ordered a bone test for him to confirm his age.
Meanwhile, her family has said they would have no objection if a new anti-rape law is named after her.
Earlier, India’s Junior Education Minister Shashi Tharoor called on the authorities to reveal the name of the gang-rape victim so that the new anti-rape law could be named after her.
“Wondering what interest is served by continuing anonymity of the Delhi gang rape victim. Why not name and honor her as a real person with own identity?” Shashi Tharoor wrote on the micro-blogging site Twitter late on Tuesday.
“Unless her parents object, she should be honored and the revised anti-rape law named after her. She was a human being with a name, not just a symbol,” he wrote.
Social activist and former police officer Kiran Bedi supported Shashi Tharoor’s idea.
“Many of the American laws… which have been made to perpetuate the memory or the suffering of the victim, only to remember that this is what happened and this is the spirit behind the law… I think it’s a good idea,” Reuters quoted her as saying.
But some critics called the suggestion “deplorable” and India’s main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party vowed to “oppose any such move”.
On Wednesday, thousands of women marched through the streets of Delhi, heading for Rajghat – the memorial of India’s independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.
Many held up placards calling for an end to sexual assaults on women.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was among the protesters who called for stringent anti-rape laws.
“We are marching to create awareness among people that women should be respected. Because a woman is a mother, a woman is a sister, she is a wife and she is a daughter,” Juhi Khan, a member of the National Commission for Women said.
Protests have been taking place every day since the brutal gang rape with protesters expressing anger over attitudes to women in India and calling for changes to the laws on violence against women.
The woman and a male friend had been to see a film when they boarded the bus in the Munirka area of Delhi, intending to travel to Dwarka in the south-west of the city.
Police said she was raped for nearly an hour, and both she and her companion were beaten with iron bars, then thrown out of the moving bus into the street.
On Tuesday, police sources said the driver of the bus had tried to run her over after throwing her out, but she was saved by her friend, Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.
According to official figures, a woman is raped in Delhi every 14 hours, while women across the country say they are frequently subjected to sexual intimidation and violence.
The Indian government has also been heavily criticized for failing to protect women.
Officials have since announced a series of measures intended to make the city safer for women.
These include more police night patrols, checks on bus drivers and their assistants, and the banning of buses with tinted windows or curtains.
The government has also set up a committee under a retired Supreme Court judge to recommend changes to the anti-rape law.
Late on Monday, the authorities in Delhi launched a new telephone helpline for women in distress. The 24-hour helpline number 181 will operate out of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s office and will be connected with all the 185 police stations across the city.
But many of the protesters say that women are viewed as second-class citizens, and that a fundamental change in culture and attitudes, backed up by law, is needed to protect them.
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