Hundreds of people protested in New Delhi against the release Sunday of the youngest person convicted in the fatal 2012 gang rape of a woman that sparked international outrage and led to changes to the country’s rape laws.
Among those protesting were the parents of the woman who was beaten and raped by six men aboard a bus. Police said the youngest attacker, then only 17 years old, was the most brutal of the rapists, who beat their victim with an iron rod before sexually assaulting her.
After a trial held behind closed doors to protect his identity, the teenager was sentenced to three years of detention – the maximum penalty allowed. Four of the other men arrested were sentenced to death. A fifth man hanged himself in prison.
Police say the convict, now 20, has been handed over to a charitable organization.
The Delhi High Court had earlier turned down a legal challenge to his release. The Supreme Court is due to hear a petition against his release on Monday.
Parents want ‘justice’
The rape victim’s parents had said they were deeply disappointed by the Delhi High Court ruling.
“The assurance we had been given that we would get justice, but we have not got justice,” said the mother of the victim, who had been a physiotherapy student. “A criminal is being set free.”
The victim’s father said the court had its own logic, but the family’s was for the sake of all society.
“Our [fight] will not end,” he said, adding that, without tougher action by the courts, all young women, “even 2-year-olds,” are potential victims of rape.
Human rights activist Kavita Srivastava said though she supports victim’s family’s fight for justice, she believes the convict must be given a second chance at life.
“It is my appeal to the victims’ parents that we are together in their fight towards justice, but we are not above the law. The boy should be given another chance based on what the law says,” said Srivastava in northwestern city of Jaipur.
Tougher sex crime laws
The brutality of the attack in the heart of New Delhi shocked the country of 1.2 billion, where sexual violence is rampant.
Protests calling for stricter sexual assault and rape laws were held for months following the student’s death. New legislation that strengthened punishments for sex crimes was passed in 2013.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has pushed to change the juvenile law and reduce the age of attaining adulthood from 18 to 16.
On Saturday, several university student groups staged protests in New Delhi as well, demanding the convict not be released.
There were 337,922 reports of violence against women such as rape, molestation, abduction and cruelty by husbands last year, up 9 percent, in 2013, according to a report by India’s National Crime Records Bureau.