Saturday 24 February 2018

Fury as Delhi gang rapist is freed after three years

Police detain demonstrators during a protest against the release of the juvenile rape convict in New Delhi
Police detain demonstrators during a protest against the release of the juvenile rape convict in New Delhi
The mother of Indian gang rape victim ‘Nirbhaya’ is detained by police during the protest in New Delhi

Muneeza Naqvi

Angry street protests have greeted the official release of a man convicted as a juvenile in the fatal 2012 gang rape of a young woman aboard a moving bus in India's capital New Delhi.

The rapist finished his three-year term in a reform home yesterday and was released into the care of a children's rights group despite public attempts to block the move.

The man was just short of his 18th birthday when he and five others brutally attacked the 23-year-old woman in a case that shocked India, where sexual violence against women is rampant.

Several activists and politicians have demanded that he not be released until it can be proved that he has been reformed. Dozens of protesters were detained in New Delhi last night, including the parents of the woman who was attacked.

On Friday, the Delhi High Court rejected a petition to extend the man's term, saying that he has served the maximum sentence allowed under the law. India's top court is set to hear another such petition today.

Police eventually broke up the street protests last night, removing the demonstrators from central New Delhi in buses.

The December 2012 attack in the heart of New Delhi sparked outrage across India and highlighted the issue of violence against women in the country.

The woman and a male friend were returning home from seeing a movie at an upscale mall when they were tricked by the attackers into getting on the bus, which the men had taken out for a joyride.

The attackers beat the victim's friend and took turns raping her. They penetrated her with a rod, leaving severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later.

Four men were convicted of rape and murder in an unusually fast trial for India's chaotic justice system, and legal appeals against their death sentences are pending in the Supreme Court. A fifth man involved in the case died in prison.

The four adults who went to trial confessed to the attack but later retracted their confessions, saying they'd been tortured into admitting their involvement.

In response to the attack and the widespread public protests it provoked, India's government rushed through legislation doubling prison sentences for rapists to 20 years as well as criminalising voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women.

The case also ignited a debate about whether minors who commit especially horrific crimes should be tried as adults.

New legislation to lower the age for young people to be tried as juveniles from 18 to 16 is currently stuck in India's Parliament.

In an interview earlier this year, the attacker who drove the bus suggested that the attack was to teach the woman and her male friend a lesson that they should not have been out late at night.

"A girl is far more responsible for rape than a boy," Mukesh Singh said.

"A decent girl won't roam around at 9 o'clock at night. . . Housework and housekeeping is for girls, not roaming in discos and bars at night doing wrong things, wearing wrong clothes."

He also claimed rape victims should not fight back: "She should just be silent and allow the rape."

He also said the death penalty would make things even more dangerous for women: "Now when they rape, they won't leave the girl like we did. They will kill her."

Irish Independent

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