India on Sunday marks 12 months since the death of a student savagely gang-raped on a Delhi bus — an episode that sparked nationwide protests — with candle-light vigils and prayers.
The 23-year-old physiotherapy student died on December 29 last year, nearly two weeks after being brutally attacked by a gang of six men on a moving bus as she returned home from the cinema with a male companion.
The attack and her subsequent death shook the country, shone a global spotlight on India’s treatment of women and unleashed seething public anger about sexual violence and harassment of women.
The victim’s family will hold a religious ceremony in their ancestral village in northern Uttar Pradesh state, away from the constant media attention they have faced since the attack, her brother said.
“We want to remember her in a quiet way, away from all the glare. We want it to be a private, family moment,” the brother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told AFP.
The family will follow traditional Hindu rituals on Sunday, with a prayer ceremony and symbolic offerings made to their ancestors, which are believed to bring peace to those who have died.
The student, who was repeatedly assaulted with an iron rod during her ordeal, has been praised for her determination to report her attackers to the police before she died of her injuries.
Four of her attackers were convicted and given the death penalty in September after the case was fast-tracked, while a juvenile was sentenced to a detention centre.
The sixth convict died in prison in March in an apparent suicide.
The angry and sometimes violent protests against the attack jolted India’s parliament, which this year passed tougher laws against rapists and other sex-crime offenders.
Women’s groups say some improvements have also been made in the last 12 months to India’s notoriously slow, inefficient and sometimes corrupt police and judicial systems, which has encouraged some victims to report sexual crimes against them.
Despite the reforms, new cases of rape continue to be reported daily from across the country in the Indian press. An ambulance driver allegedly raped a 10-year-old girl after he drove her sick mother to hospital in the central state of Chhattisgarh, the Press Trust of India reported.
Police have charged the driver over the incident in Kanker district on December 23, the news agency reported on Saturday.
In the capital on Sunday, scores of students, professionals and others were slated to gather at Jantar Mantar, a protest site in the city’s centre, where a makeshift memorial has been set up for the victim.
Small lamps, candles and flowers will be placed around the memorial before a peaceful vigil in the evening, one of several expected to take place across the city.
One of the organisers said women who turn up at Jantar Mantar will be encouraged to share their own experiences of violence and discuss societal changes that have taken place since the student’s death.
“We need to remind the society that sex crimes won’t be tolerated anymore,” student Ishaan Ahmed told AFP.