India is drafting a bill proposing 30 years’ jail for rapists and possible chemical castration. It comes after a 23-year-old woman, gang-raped in New Delhi, died in hospital, drawing public attention to an epidemic of violence against women.
The victim’s body was transferred from the Singapore hospital where she died on Saturday back to India for the funeral on Sunday morning. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the head of the ruling Congress Party greeted the plane carrying the body at the airport.
The private cremation ceremony was held under tight security in Delhi a few hours after the victim’s body arrived in India.
The case of the medical student raped two weeks ago in the Munirka area of Delhi by a group of men has dominated the Indian public forum. The incident has provoked public outrage, condemning the police and the government for their inaction on the issue of women’s safety.
In response to public uproar, India’s ruling Congress Party is drafting the new legislation for submission to the Justice Verma Committee, charged with reassessing current rape laws and suggesting changing to ensure greater safety for women.
The document stipulates a maximum jail sentence of 30 years for those convicted of rape and the introduction of chemical castration as a punitive measure, writes the Indian Express. The draft legislation also stipulates a fast-track deadline of 90 days to finish court proceedings.
Additionally, the Indian government heard calls from the Bharatiya Janata Party to hold an emergency parliamentary session to discuss women’s safety after the death of the 23-year-old woman who was brutally gang-raped in New Delhi. The medical student, whose identity remains unknown, was reportedly raped for almost an hour before she and a male friend were beaten with iron bars and then thrown out of the New Delhi bus on which she was traveling.
Thousands took to the streets of the city on Saturday after the news of the victim’s death in a massive peaceful protest.
Six men were charged with murder on Saturday in connection with the rape. If the suspects are convicted of their crimes they will face the death penalty.
“The shameful incident can yield a positive result if only the government decides to take a quick decision. For this a parliamentary session should be held immediately where all issues related to the safety of women should be discussed,” the party’s national vice-president and Rajya Sabha member Shanta Kumar said to Indian Express.
Referring to the mass protests sparked by the woman’s death, Kumar said that the government “has still not opened its eyes completely” to the issue of women’s safety.
He went on to slam the police, branding entire administration as “inefficient and corrupt.”
The rape case has become the focus of protests across India, rallying for greater protection for women in Indian society. New Delhi has an infamous reputation as India’s rape capital, with a report from the Hindustan Times documenting more than 20 rape cases since December 16 in the city.
"We are aware that this is not the first case, nor will it be the last case of gang-rape in India, but it is clear that we will not tolerate sex crimes anymore," said Bela Rana, a lawyer participating in a Delhi rally to AP.
Victims of gang-rapes often do not come forward to the police in India for fear of shaming their families or being ignored by police. Moreover, cases are so widespread that they are rarely covered by the press.