Indian gang rapists charged
The five men accused of savagely beating and raping a 23-year-old woman are formally charged with rape and murder in a New Delhi court.PT1M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2c7s8 620 349 January 4, 2013
DELHI: A call to name a new law targeting sexual violence after the woman who died at the weekend following a gang rape has provoked fierce debate, as five of the men accused of her rape and murder prepared to face court in Delhi.
The suggestion that the 23-year-old physiotherapy student be named - made by a junior government minister, Shashi Tharoor - has found support among many of those who have been campaigning for tougher police action against those accused of sexual assault and a change in Indian society's views on women.
''It would mean her memory would live on,'' said Sangeeta Kumar, a 31-year-old teacher who has been protesting in Delhi.
Fast track … police guard the court on Thursday. Photo: AFP
Others said the move, which goes against a Supreme Court order prohibiting naming a rape victim, placed symbolism above substance.
The director of the Centre for Social Research and a member of India's National Commission for Empowerment of Women, Ranjana Kumari, said the naming debate was an unnecessary distraction.
''We should be focusing on important issues such as sentencing, the economic rehabilitation of families who suffer and so on,'' Dr Kumari said. ''We did not protect her dignity and life when she was alive. Who knows if she would have wanted such a thing. It's an absolute no-no.''
Indian media reported the victim's family saying they would be honoured if new legislation was named after her.
Conservative cultural attitudes in India mean rape victims are often stigmatised.
Some, particularly in rural communities, are forced to marry their attackers to gain social acceptance.
''It's not easy to survive social shame in India,'' Ms Kumari said.
After misjudging popular sentiment in the immediate aftermath of the incident, the Indian government has acted to head off public anger.
A fast-track court was inaugurated in the capital Delhi on Wednesday, the first of five that will be set up to deal rapidly with rape cases.
The six accused in the gang-rape case were due to be formally charged on Thursday.
India suffers from a lack of judges and cases frequently take years to come to trial.
Police are awaiting findings on a bone test conducted on one of the suspects to decide whether he should be tried as a juvenile or an adult, which could affect the charges against him.
He is in special secure accommodation. The five other accused are in high-security Tihar jail.
Last week, the Indian Bar Association decided against defending the six suspects because of the nature of the crime, although the court is expected to appoint lawyers to defend them.
Indian media have reported that forensic evidence indicates the victim of the attack, who died on Saturday at a hospital in Singapore, struggled violently, repeatedly biting her assailants.
Guardian News & Media