To respect a New Delhi student who was gang-raped and then murdered in India recently, the country’s army and navy canceled its New Year’s celebrations on Monday, according to The Associated Press. The incident has set off a series of debates regarding women’s rights.
“To change a society as conservative, traditional and patriarchal as ours, we will have a long haul,” said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research. “It will take some time, but certainly there is a beginning.”
The victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, died in a Singapore hospital of internal wounds. In the case, six men have been arrested and charged with murder in attack, which occurred on December 16 on a New Delhi bus. If convicted, police said that the men could face the death penalty.
Aside from the army and navy, Sonia Gandhi, the head of the ruling Congress party, also canceled New Year’s celebrations.
“She has become the daughter of the entire nation,” said Sushma Swaraj, a leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
Politicians have been asking for a special session of Parliament in order to pass laws that would increase the punishments for rapists. One such penalty could be chemical castration. Another law would create a fast track for courts to hear rape cases within 90 days.
Another item that has been proposed includes the creation of a public database of convicted rapists. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already started two committees to investigate what led to the rape and to propose law changes.
New Delhi Lt. Gov. Tejendra Khanna said that the city’s police force has appointed an officer to meet monthly with women’s groups to crack down on the problem of officers not reporting cases of abuse or harassment filed by women.
“We have mandated that any time any lady visits a police station with a complaint, it has to be recorded on the spot,” he said.
The United Nations human rights chief called for change in India on Monday speaking in Geneva. Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement:
“Let us hope that 2013 will be the year the tide is turned on violence against women in India and all women can walk free without fear. The public is demanding a transformation in systems that discriminate against women to a culture that respects the dignity of women in law and practice. However terrible the crime, the death penalty is not the answer.”