With vigils and prayers, India yesterday marked the first anniversary of the death of a student savagely gang raped on a Delhi bus in a tragedy that sparked nationwide protests.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died on Dec. 29 last year, nearly two weeks after being attacked by six men on a moving bus as she returned home from the cinema with a male companion.
The attack and her subsequent death shook the country, shone a global spotlight on India’s treatment of women and unleashed seething public anger about sexual violence and harassment of women.
The victim’s family are holding a religious ceremony in their ancestral village in the state of Uttar Pradesh, away from the constant media attention they have faced since the attack, her brother said.
“We want to remember her in a quiet way, away from all the glare. We want it to be a private family moment,” the brother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told reporters before the anniversary.
The family will follow traditional Hindu rituals, with a prayer ceremony and symbolic offerings to their ancestors, which are believed to bring peace to the dead.
The student, who was repeatedly assaulted with an iron rod during her ordeal, has been praised for her determination to report her attackers to the police before she died of her injuries. Four of her attackers were convicted and given the death penalty in September after the case was fast-tracked through the courts, while a juvenile was sentenced to a detention center.
The sixth man died in prison in March in an apparent suicide.
The angry and sometimes violent protests against the attack jolted India’s parliament, which this year passed tougher laws against rapists and other sex crime offenders.
Women’s groups say some improvements have been made in the past 12 months to India’s notoriously slow, inefficient and sometimes corrupt police and judicial systems, which has encouraged some victims to report sexual crimes.
Despite the reforms, new cases of rape continue to be reported daily across the country.
An ambulance driver allegedly raped a 10-year-old girl after he drove her sick mother to hospital in Chhattisgarh State, the Press Trust of India reported. Police charged the driver over the incident in Kanker District on Monday last week, the news agency reported on Saturday.
In the capital, a small group of students and workers yesterday gathered at Jantar Mantar, a protest site in the city center where a makeshift memorial has been set up for the victim.
They urged lawmakers to push ahead with reforms aimed at reducing crimes against women, including speeding up the justice system.
“A lot more still needs to be done to ensure that India becomes an absolute rape-free nation,” Akash Kumar, a student from the nearby town of Gurgaon, told reporters.
“We want the Indian government to set fixed time-frames for police investigations, court trials and ultimately punishment for the accused,” worker Vikas Tyagi said.
Others urged a debate on lowering the age at which juveniles are tried as adults for heinous crimes.