The 2012 gang rape and murder that shocked India

The ordeal of a young woman gang-raped and murdered on a Delhi bus on December 16, 2012 shocked India and the world and highlighted the scourge of sexual crimes against women.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary, AFP looks at the events of that evening and its aftermath.

– Gang rape in India: what happened?

Jyoti Singh, 23, was returning home after watching “Life of Pi” at the cinema with a friend when they boarded a bus on the afternoon of Sunday, December 16, 2012.

Six assailants knocked out the friend and dragged Singh into the back of the vehicle where they raped and assaulted her with a metal rod as the bus wound its way through the dark streets of Delhi.

After an hour, she and the friend were left for dead.

Singh survived long enough to identify his attackers, but died a fortnight later in a hospital in Singapore from his internal injuries.

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Dubbed “Nirbhaya” (“fearless”) by the Indian media, she became a symbol of the socially conservative country’s failure to address sexual violence against women.

– Research –

Police tracked down the bus driver and arrested him and three other people on December 18. The two remaining assailants were arrested within a week.

The five adults and one juvenile were charged with 13 offenses in February 2013 by a fast-track court.

A month later, the main accused Ram Singh was found dead in his jail cell. Officials said he took his own life, but his family and lawyer alleged he was murdered.

That August, the young man was found guilty of rape and murder and sentenced to three years in a penitentiary.

The remaining four adults were found guilty and sentenced to death the following month in a summary trial.

They were hanged in 2020 after several years of legal appeals.

– Victims and rapists –

Before the attack, Singh’s father moved the family from a village to the bustling capital and found work as a baggage handler at Delhi airport.

Her parents hoped she would become the first professional in the family, and all their financial resources were channeled into her studies at the Faculty of Physiotherapy.

To supplement her family’s meager income, she worked in a call center and tutored children.

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The men on the bus – Ram Singh, Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur and Pawan Gupta – lived in a slum and included a bus cleaner, a gym helper, a fruit seller and a school dropout .

– Sexual violence –

India recorded 31,677 rape cases last year, an average of 86 a day, according to the latest official criminal statistics, an increase of almost 13% from 2020.

But there are probably many more victims too scared to come forward.

Huge and sometimes violent demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people erupted in Delhi and elsewhere over Singh’s case.

It also prompted much research in India, where patriarchal attitudes still rule and girls are often seen as a financial burden. Most marriages are arranged.

Justice can be elusive when women, if they have the courage to come forward, are often blamed for the violence they suffer. Girls and women from lower castes suffer disproportionately.

– Harder penalties –

Under pressure, the government introduced harsher penalties for rapists and the death penalty for repeat offenders.

Several new sexual offenses were introduced, including harassment and the provision of prison terms for officials who do not report violations.

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More CCTV cameras and streetlights were installed, and there are centers for rape survivors where they can access legal and medical help.

But tens of thousands of rape cases remain stagnant in India’s overburdened legal system, and horrific crimes against women continue to be reported.

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