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National outrage erupts over gang rape

Lawmakers want death penalty for attackers

National outrage erupts over gang rape
Activists from India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party protest the rape of a student in Delhi (AFP photo/Raveendran)
Swati Deb, New Delhi

December 19, 2012

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The brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in New Delhi on Sunday has sparked outrage across the country, with Indian parliamentarians demanding the death penalty for those responsible.

The unusual outpouring of anger also prompted calls for greater protection for women in a country where crimes against women are treated with apathy and rarely prosecuted, activists say.

The girl was attacked on Sunday evening after she and a male friend boarded a bus with tinted windows in south Delhi.

Seven men on the bus allegedly attacked the pair with iron bars, raped the girl then threw them off the vehicle which had passed through several police checkpoints.

The girl is currently fighting for her life in hospital. Police have since arrested four people, including the bus driver.

The savagery of Sunday’s alleged rape sparked uproar in parliament yesterday with women members sobbing amid demands for the death penalty to be imposed for those found guilty of the crime.

Rape in India carries a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.

In the Lower House, the leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj said "those convicted in such cases should be hanged."

Other members of the House voiced their agreement.

Similar sentiments were echoed in the Upper House when Samajwadi (Socialist) Party member, Jaya Bachchan, demanded that rape be treated on a par with murder.

Federal Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, assured lawmakers the case would be pursued vigorously

He said he would monitor police investigations and “if there were any lapses, strict action would be taken.”

Lawmakers, activists and protesters have all accused the police of not doing enough to protect women and that the rape highlighted just how vulnerable young women in the national capital and across India are.

Official sources say as many as 572 rape cases were reported in Delhi last year, while over 600 cases have been registered by police so far this year.

"This is not a solitary case...women are not safe in Delhi. An infant or even a six-year-old girl is not safe here," said lawmaker Maya Singh.

"All these rapists are arrested, but then released. They come out and rape again. Police are not trained to deal with rape cases," she said.

Elsewhere in the capital, students set up road blocks across the city to demand a government crackdown on crimes against women.

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