India court finds four men guilty in bus gang rape

The men were convicted on all counts against them, including rape and murder. They are expected to receive the death penalty.

Manish Swarup/AP
A police van leaves a court complex carrying four men convicted in the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus last year, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013.

A New Delhi court convicted the four men accused of raping and murdering a young medical student last December. The attack became a catalyst of change to criminal law, while the guilty verdict has put women's safety in the spotlight here. 

The brutal, high-profile incident led to massive daily protests across the capital for a month, new laws to address sexual violence, and increased media attention on rape in India.

Six men in total were accused of tricking the woman and a male companion into boarding a chartered bus, Dec.16, on their way home from a movie. Police say that in a premeditated act the men beat up her friend and raped the woman, using a metal bar to inflict serious injuries. The two were then dumped, naked, by the side of the road. The woman later died in a Singapore hospital.

“Seeing this case as a rare one just because there were large protests over it is the wrong way to go about it,” says Kabita Krishnan, an activist who had mobilized many of the protesters in support of women’s rights here. “The trial in this case has been exemplary, but fighting rape demands that every case be [treated] with similar alacrity and conviction rates must go up,” she says.

The bus driver committed suicide in the jail earlier this year, and a 16-year-old male teenager was found guilty in a juvenile court last month and sentenced to three years in a reform facility. The four remaining men charged with rape will be sentenced Wednesday. They face the death penalty.

The victim's mother and brother were in tears as the judge read out the verdict. Family members of the convicted were also in court, while outside, protesters demanded the death penalty. Indian jurisprudence says that capital punishment should be reserved for the “rarest of rare” cases.

That the trial lasted only seven months is a first – trials in India are notorious for delay and red tape, and can take years to complete. Many are hopeful that the comparatively quick sentencing will set a precedent.  According to the Indian law ministry, there are more than 23,000 rape cases pending in high courts across the country. 

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 23 percent of the rape cases registered in 2012 resulted in convictions. “There has been greater social awareness and engagement with the issue of sexual violence, but as a woman I still don't feel safer because the police and law enforcement hasn't changed,” says Ms. Krishnan. 

To speed up the convictions, the government has announced it is setting up 1,800 special fast-track courts for trying cases of violence against women, children, and the elderly. 

Vrinda Grover, a woman’s rights lawyer, says the biggest achievement out of the case has been the amendments in criminal law, making punishments more stringent for a variety of crimes against women, such as acid attacks, stalking, and voyeurism.

“But the actual prosecution, and making sure that it is efficient in securing convictions, [still] has a lot to be improved,” she says.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.