The case of the young physiotherapy student who was assaulted and raped last month aboard a New Delhi bus, later dying as a result of the serious injuries she sustained, will finally be debated in court today. According to their respective lawyers, the five accused men are all planning to plead not guilty to the charges of murder, rape, and kidnapping. A sixth accused man who is 17-years-old will have a separate trial in juvenile court. All of the defendants could be facing a death penalty if found guilty. Although it seems like this horrifying case has gone unresolved for far too long, today’s trial is actually a result of pointed judicial expedition. The trial will be held in a “fast track” court in New Delhi. According to The Wall Street Journal, “City authorities have pledged that the trial will be swift, with hearings every few days, if not every day. That "fast track" process would be in contrast to the many Indian criminal cases that drag on for years, with long adjournments between hearings.” Clearly, authorities are antsy to wash their hands of this entire ordeal, which has garnered international outrage as well as pressure within India to change the way that rape cases are investigated and tried.
A.P. Singh, the lawyer for two of the accused, addresses journalists
At least something good has already come out of this disgusting crime: According to CNN, police officials have announced plans to strengthen laws regarding rape and sexual assault, as well as mandate that each police station in New Delhi hire at least 10 women constables and 2 women subinspectors. These female officers will be extensively trained to handle complaints from women (presumably regarding rape and sexual assault).
A memorial for the victim of the New Delhi gang rape
While international pressure is sure to help guarantee that justice is served in this case, not every victim attracts the same amount of attention and support. The story of an 11-year-old girl who was similarly raped and brutalized in Sikar last August has made the media rounds in various Indian publications and has inspired protests in India, but has yet to be picked up internationally. And, thusly, the case has yet to be brought to trial, as it is embroiled in the legal red tape that the New Delhi rape case expedited. After two men raped her and left her to die, this victim underwent over 10 surgeries, 5 of them major.
A showing of support for the victim of the Sikar gang rape
After her last surgery on January 12th, doctors are reportedly considering releasing the victim from the hospital. However, her safety is at risk—the victim’s sister (who suffered a broken engagement as a result of the stigma that surrounds her sister’s rape) has alleged that the family has been threatened unless they “withdraw the complaint.” While she goes on to pledge that, “we will fight for justice,” justice for rape cases in India seems like an uphill battle. It will take a concentrated effort by Indian lawmakers, policemen, and regular citizens to reverse the rape culture and release women from the stigma that surrounds reporting a rape or sexual assault in today’s India. For now, attention-grabbing protests and constant media coverage are necessary tools in the fight to pressure the Indian legal system and punish the guilty perpetrators of sexual violence.