Though every case is a tragedy, it took one instance of a sexual assault so brutal that it immediately mobilized protesters across India and the global community. A woman had been gang-raped on a bus in India, and eventually died from her injuries.
On Tuesday, the case that brought terrifying sexual violence in India to light, ended with convictions for four men who raped and murdered the 23-year-old woman, leaving protesters clamoring for the death penalty.
The details of the attack are gruesome, and have been told and retold in India's newspapers: The woman and a male friend were on their way home after seeing a movie in December when they were attacked by men on their bus and beaten unconscious. The woman was taken to the back of the bus and raped by the men, who sometimes used a metal rod, before they were left for dead on a roadside, naked and bleeding.
The woman died two weeks later of her injuries, but not before she could give detailed testimony that, along with DNA evidence, led to the convictions, according to the New York Times. A juvenile has already been convicted and sentenced to three years, which is the maximum.
Activists outside the courthouse Tuesday staged a mock hanging of five men following the verdict.
“Hang the rapists!” they chanted. Sentencing is slated for Wednesday.
The victim’s parents agree, with her father saying that if they aren’t sentenced to death “it will be a shame for everyone.”
Prior to the verdict, a lawyer for one of the defendants, Manohar Lal Sharma, added insult to deadly injury by telling media, “Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady.”
Maybe today Sharma and other men are seeing that those who respect all ladies won’t wind up behind bars, or worse.
Indian officials report that in 2012, there were 24,923 reports of rape in India, which means a rape happens just about every 21 minutes.
One of the defendants, bus driver Ram Singh, has already hanged himself with a bed sheet in his Delhi prison. His family believes he was abused while in custody and murdered by police.
The United Nations reports sexual violence is a problem in much of South Asia because men express a sense of sexual entitlement. In India, women in the Dalit caste, the lowest caste commonly called “untouchables,” are frequent targets of sexual violence perpetrated by men in higher castes.
But there are signs of hope.
The case stunned the world, pressing a discussion of rape and violence against women in India, where coverage of rape is up in the country's newspapers as the media takes on a watchdog role. The government has also toughened sexual violence laws, and public protests continue to raise awareness in the massive country's changing society.