News / Asia

India Marks Somber New Year's Eve After Rape Victim's Death

Students hold candles as they pray during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim, who was assaulted in New Delhi and later died, in Ahmedabad, India, December 31, 2012.
Students hold candles as they pray during a candlelight vigil for a gang rape victim, who was assaulted in New Delhi and later died, in Ahmedabad, India, December 31, 2012.
VOA News
Many across India canceled festive New Year's Eve celebrations Monday out of respect for the young woman who died days earlier from injuries suffered during a brutal gang rape.

The unidentified victim, a 23-year-old student, died Saturday from severe internal injuries that her assailants caused with a metal rod during the attack on a bus two weeks ago. Six men have been arrested and charged with murder in the December 16 attack in New Delhi. They could face the death penalty if convicted.

Reflecting the country's somber mood, hotels, clubs, India's military and even the head of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, called off their parties to greet the new year. Many have joined candlelight vigils in the capital and other major cities. Others have chosen to protest peacefully, in contrast to the violent demonstrations that erupted in New Delhi a week ago.

Debate sparked

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.

Action demanded

Human Rights Watch said the gang rape "should spur decisive action" by the Indian government.  

Meenakshi Ganguly, HRW's South Asia director, said 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 Manmohan 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.

  • Lawyers shout slogans as they hold placards and a banner during a protest demanding the judicial system act faster against rape outside a district court in New Delhi, India, January 3, 2013.
  • Indians stand in a line to enter the District Court complex where a new fast-track court was inaugurated Wednesday to deal specifically with crimes against women, in New Delhi, India, January 3, 2013.
  • An elderly Indian man lights a candle at a makeshift memorial of a gang-rape victim in New Delhi, India, Janueary 3, 2013.
  • Women carrying placards enter Raj Ghat to attend a prayer ceremony for a rape victim after a rally organized by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit (unseen), New Delhi, India, January 2, 2013.
  • A student prays during a vigil for a gang rape victim, who was assaulted in New Delhi, in Ahmedabad, India, December 31, 2012.
  • Students hold candles as they pray during a vigil for a gang rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, in Ahmedabad, India, December 31, 2012.
  • Men lie on a street while on a hunger strike during a protest in New Delhi, India, December 31, 2012.
  • Students participate in a protest rally, in Hyderabad, India, December 31, 2012.
  • Indians burn effigies of the rapists during a candle-lit vigil to mourn the death of a gang rape victim in New Delhi, India, December 30, 2012.
  • Indians participate in a candle-lit vigil to mourn the death of a gang rape victim in New Delhi, India, December 30, 2012.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
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by: Chris Miller
December 31, 2012 4:00 PM
Banwari Lal Singhal's suggestion for a ban on skirts is an atrocity against women as it shifts the blame away from the viscous perpetrators and places it squarely on the victims. Many women in many countries are free to wear skirts without fear of being raped and killed. The problem is not what the 23 year old was wearing when she was brutally raped and murdered. I sincerely hope these men get the death penalty as it will send a message throughout India and the world. The laws and the penalties for rape need to be taken to a whole new level. And young men need to be more educated with regards to respect for women. Additionally, women rape-defense courses need to be far more accessible.

In Response

by: Adnan Bhatti from: Glendale Heights, Chicago
January 01, 2013 1:54 AM
Nothing can happen in countries like India and Pakistan where corruption has eaten up whole law. You can do anything in those countries if you have political connection and money. This is rape, even murder goes by idly..


by: ana from: florida
December 31, 2012 3:51 PM
I'm wondering why people in this country are not honoring, in similar fashion, the 26 children and teachers who were murdered in Newtown, CT. Wouldn't a period of national mourning be appropriate, including modifying, if not canceling, New Year's celebrations?

In Response

by: Anonymous from: New jersey,
January 02, 2013 10:11 PM
I am an indian american (my parents were born and raised there) Our new year is called diwali and in november. Everyone does what Americans do and that is the western new year truly. So yeah the indian new year was not cancelled. And we were lucky this rape case actually got public attention and it has potential to create change unlike all the other ones in past you should educate yourself and stop being a shellfish lazy american. India has a very corrupt gov far worse than the US ever can be.

In Response

by: Doug from: Canada
December 31, 2012 8:06 PM
After the attacks on 9/11 in which thousands were lost,
new years celebrations were not canceled in the US so it doesnt make sense to cancel due to another mass shooting


by: Rajat from: Sunnyvale
December 31, 2012 2:57 PM
She died in Singapore, not Ahmedabad.


by: Issues India from: USA
December 31, 2012 1:46 PM
The world knows that India is highly corrupt, whether it is Judicial, Political or Civil. To the Indian population, it's just another event that they read in the newspapers or watch it on TV, and pass a dry comment that 'the county is going to dogs', and move on with their lives. We all know that justice can be bought with political and police intervention. These days, even Judges are accepting bribes openly, or through their contacts within their own courts. Unless global corporations come to their senses and threaten to pull their ventures out of India, the corrupt politicians will not listen and pass appropriate legislations. No wonder, majority of the populace do not seek justice through police and courts, instead, they turn to local gangsters, who for a cut in the proceeds can get anything done! (By the way, these gangsters have local and national politicians and local police (and now Judges) on their payroll). The services range from illegally occupying vacant homes, (and threatening not to leave until paid a percentage of the value of the home), threaten people with fake police complaints and extort monies to make the fake cases disappear, get criminal arrest warrants issued against innocent citizens (in collusion with greedy lawyers and police officers) and drop the charges for a settled fee, greedy relatives trespass into their related NRI (non-resident Indian) homes, and do not leave until they get paid sumptuously with help from local politicians and police officers., the list goes on and on.... What Indians need now is the 'wild west justice' with vigilantes all over the place. Unless people rebel and restore the good old days, India’s future is very bleak!

In Response

by: justacomment from: USA
January 01, 2013 1:07 AM
global corporations threatening to pull out? You do realize how stupid that sounds, right? How do you think they got a foot inside India? By doing the same nonsense you're blaming Indians for -bribe. India is a crazy land, people are indifferent, selfish and don't have enough scruples -yes. Round up the politicians and the cops and over half the problems are solved. In a populous country like ours, it is difficult to accomplish that. But let's hope that happens someday soon.


by: Neetu Dholakia from: New York
December 31, 2012 1:46 PM
The government of India led by Congress party is directly responsible for the death of the rape victim. The government unilaterally decided to fly the victim to Singapore, when she was in a critical condition, against the wishes of the doctors. After her unfortunate death the government flew back her body to New Delhi and cremated it secretly against the wishes of the parents. The Congress government of India behaved in such dictatorial fashion, they denied the family the right to cremate the loved one as per the wishes of the family. Even governments of communist countries treat their citizens better than the Congress party government of democratic India

In Response

by: D.S. from: India
January 01, 2013 12:14 AM
I am outraged too, but I believe only the rapists are directly responsible for this death. The Government and the Police were as much shocked by the development. Also, I am not sure how the details and manner of cremation are relevant to the responsibility of assault. Agreed, there is corruption in the Government, but in this instance, a Government functionary did not rape or murder anyone, so let us remain factual and not resort to mindless frenzy.

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