Memorials for Delhi rape victim a year on


MS ANKITA Thapliyal skipped college yesterday to attend one of the scores of memorials held for the physiotherapy student whose gang rape in a moving bus in New Delhi exactly one year ago shocked the world, and released a raft of measures including tightening of the rape law.

The sad thing, Ms Thapliyal said, is that women in India are no safer today.

“I used to come home at 10pm and even later, and my parents would not say anything. Now I have to be home by 6pm. The restrictions are on women. Nothing changes; instead, the pressure is on me,” the 21-year- old said.

“But then I don’t feel safe in Delhi either.”

Across the country, people lit candles, prayed and sang songs in memory of the victim.

At another event in New Delhi, the victim’s parents held a prayer meeting attended by politicians, social activists and police officials, who all came to pay their respects to the young woman whose rape and death triggered protests.

On Dec 16 last year, the student was gang-raped and brutally assaulted. She died two weeks later at the Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where she had been sent for treatment.

Four men are currently appealing against a death sentence while a fifth killed himself in prison. A sixth accused, a 17-year- old, is serving a maximum sentence of three years for rape and murder in a reform home.

Since the rape, the government has made stalking and voyeurism a crime and set up a fast-track court for rape cases. It also made rape that leaves a victim dead or in a vegetative state a capital offence.

Women activists said the biggest change is breaking the silence surrounding sexual violence against women in India.

So far this year, more than 1,300 rapes have been reported in New Delhi, up from 706 last year. Similarly, 2,844 assault cases were reported there this year, compared with 727 last year.

Last month, a young journalist accused powerful editor Tarun Tejpal, 50, of molesting and raping her in the lift of a five-star hotel. Mr Tejpal is currently in police custody.

In another high-profile case last month, a lawyer wrote about being sexually harassed last year by now retired justice A.K. Ganguly. She was then a law intern and he had allegedly invited her to his hotel room.

Those cases came after a photojournalist who was gang- raped in August went directly to the police, leading to the arrest of her assailants.

Yet gang rapes continue. In October, a minor was gang- raped in the state of Uttar Pradesh and then set on fire after she threatened to go to the police.

“You can only control crime when (the) criminal gets punishment and (the) victim gets justice,” said Mr Pankaj Sharma of non-profit Centre for Transforming India. “There is no evidence of that happening.”

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