December 31, 2012
India Remains in Mourning for Gang Rape Victim
India remains in mourning Monday, two days after the death of a 23-year-old woman who died of severe organ failure after suffering internal injuries and brain damage in a brutal gang rape.
Six men have been arrested and charged with murder in the December 16 attack in New Delhi. Police say the men could face the death penalty, if convicted.
Candlelight vigils have been held in the capital and may cities across India since the attack.
Out of respect for the unidentified victim, India's military has canceled its New Year's celebrations, as did Sonia Gandhi, head of the ruling Congress party.
The woman's death has set off a debate about what India needs to do to protect women.
Issues such as rape, dowry-related deaths and female infanticide rarely enter mainstream political discourse in India.
Protesters and politicians have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way the nation treats women.
BJP, the main opposition party, has called for a special session of parliament to discuss the issues and to amend legislation.
However, BJP lawmaker Banwari Lal Singhal has called for a ban on skirts as part of school uniforms. He said he wants the girls to wear pants because a new dress code would keep girls "away from the lustful gazes of men."
Mamata Sharma, the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, slammed the legislator for his remarks, saying instead of changing the dress code of the girls, he should ask men to change their attitudes and treat both sexes equally.
Human Rights Watch said the gang rape "should spur decisive action" by the Indian government.
Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW's South Asia director, says the Indian government needs to act immediately to prevent sexual assault and ensure the dignified treatment of survivors.
The outcry over the attack caught the Indian government off-guard. It took a week for Prime Minister Singh to make a statement on the case, infuriating many protesters.
The woman is reported to have accepted a ride with a male companion on a charter bus in New Delhi where the six men on board beat them both with an iron rod. The woman was raped repeatedly. Reports say the rod was used in the rape. The woman and her friend were then thrown from the moving vehicle.
The male friend survived the attack.