Rape protests end New Year parties
Published 31/12/2012 | 10:45
India has remained in mourning over the death of the New Delhi gang rape victim, with many New Year celebrations cancelled in respect.
The attack has set off an impassioned debate about what the country needs to do to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.
Protesters and politicians have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way the nation treats its women.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died two days ago from internal wounds in a Singapore hospital. Six men have been arrested and charged with murder in the December 16 attack.
India's army and navy scrapped their New Year's celebrations, as did Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party. Hotels and clubs across the capital also said they would forego their usual parties. "She has become the daughter of the entire nation," said Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Hundreds of mourners continued their daily protests near parliament demanding swift government action. "So much needs to be done to end the oppression of women," said Murarinath Kushwaha, whose two friends were on a hunger strike to draw attention to the issue.
Some commentators compared the rape victim, whose name was not released by police, to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation set off the Arab Spring. There was hope her tragedy could mark a turning point for gender rights in a country where women often refuse to leave their homes at night out of fear and where sex selective abortions and even female infanticide have wildly skewed the gender ratios.
Politicians from across the spectrum called for convening a special session of parliament to pass new laws to increase punishments for rapists - including possible chemical castration - and to set up fast-track courts to deal with rape cases within 90 days.
The government has proposed creating a public database of convicted rapists to shame them, and prime minister Manmohan Singh has set up two committees to look into what lapses led to the rape and to propose changes in the law.
Responding to complaints that police refuse to look at cases of abuse or harassment brought by women, the city force has appointed an officer to meet with women's groups monthly and crack down on the problem. There have also been proposals to install a quota to ensure one-third of Delhi's police are women.
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