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India: gang rape verdict postponed

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India: gang rape verdict postponed


The New Delhi Crown Court has postponed its first verdict in the trial of the gang rape of a young girl, which took place on a bus in the capital on December 16. This first verdict is expected to eventually come down against the only minor accused in this affair.

Almost all of India awaited the verdict on Thursday 11 July. But the victim’s family and supporters will now have to wait until July 25 to know the first verdict in the rape trial. This is not the first disappointment the family has had to face: they had asked for the accused teenager, aged 17 at the time of the crime, to be tried alongside the other accused parties, as an adult.

Although accused of the same crime, the penalty varies drastically according to age: the accused adults risk receiving the death penalty, whereas the accused minor could receive a maximum three-year prison sentence, to be completed in a young offender’s institution.

Some observers are worried about the country’s reaction following the verdict, due to the sheer emotion that gripped the country after the young girl’s death was announced. She died in a hospital in Singapore 13 days after the attack, as a result of the injuries she sustained. Thousands of people in India have since called for an overhaul of the treatment of women in the country, revolting against ineffective legislation and the apathy of the police towards victims of sexual assault.

The 23-year-old student was beaten with an iron bar, and then raped by six men. Having stripped her, the men then threw her and her friend onto the road.

The four adult suspects are still being sentenced. The fifth, Ram Singh, who was labelled the group’s leader, was found dead in his cell in March. His death was ruled as suicide by the prison administration, a verdict his family and lawyer refute.

The Indian people have taken to the streets several times this year, protesting about the safety of women in a country where a rape is carried out every 20 minutes . The abduction and rape of a five-year-old child horrified the whole world, and pushed the Indian authorities to strengthen sanctions against the perpetrators of sexual assault.

Acid, the other plague

Another popular form of violence against women in India is the acid attack.

According to the NGO Stop Acid Attacks , based in New Delhi, there have been three cases of this type of attack per week on a national scale. Most of the time, these attacks are carried out on family members, or by people known to the victim. Such attacks can sometimes prove fatal.
India’s Supreme Court has given the government until July 16 to put stricter legislation in place to regulate the sale of acid. As reported in the Wall Street Journal blog India Real Time , it is extremely easy to procure a litre bottle of hydrochloric acid. India Real Time was able to buy one in a little supermarket in the suburbs of New Delhi for just 20 rupees (approximately 22 pence in British pound sterling).
Suneet Shukla, one of the leaders of the Stop Acid Attacks organization, believes that once the acid is out of reach of the average consumer, the attacks will diminish. He also proposes that acid should only be sold upon presentation of a piece of ID, and that the sale of acid to individuals should no longer be authorised. In addition, Shukla recommends keeping records of those who buy acid.

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