India’s Singh Vows Justice as Rape Victim Taken to Singapore
By Bibhudatta Pradhan (Business Week): India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed “expeditious” prosecution of the accused in the gang rape of a student in New Delhi as the victim was transferred to a Singapore hospital in a critical condition.
Singh said his government will examine current laws and punishments for such aggravated crimes against women as he moved to maintain calm after the attack that sparked two days of rioting and prompted police to shut down some subway stations. Amid reports of more cases of sexual assault, the cabinet appointed a retired judge of the Delhi High Court to investigate the incident and fix lapses. A panel headed by a former Supreme Court judge will review the laws.
“Let me state categorically that the issue of safety and security of women is of the highest concern to our government,” he told state chief ministers at a conference today.
The woman, raped and brutalized by six men on Dec. 16 in a moving bus in the city, arrived at Mount Elizabeth Hospital’s intensive care unit in downtown Singapore earlier today in “an extremely critical condition,” the health-care facility said. India’s Home Ministry said she was shifted abroad for specialized treatment on the advice of a team of doctors and the government will bear all expenses.
“Despite the best efforts of our doctors, the victim continues to be critical and her fluctuating health remains a big cause for concern to all of us,” Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said in a statement.
A 42-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by three men last night near New Delhi, the Press Trust of India reported. In another incident in Surat, Gujarat, the news agency said today that a sex worker was allegedly raped by 10 men on Dec. 25.
Data provided by India’s National Crime Records Bureau show about 24,200 cases of rape and 228,650 cases of crimes against women were reported in 2011. Still, figures given by the United Nations show 1.8 cases of rape for every 100,000 in India, compared with 63 in Sweden, 29 in the U.K. and 27 in the U.S. Most cases go unreported in India.
The government panel headed by the former Supreme Court chief justice may rewrite the nation’s criminal code to include capital punishment for the “rarest of rare” rape cases.
Before last month’s execution of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Pakistani gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India last carried out the death penalty in 2004, when a convicted rapist was hanged 14 years after committing the crime. Slow trials and lax enforcement of laws also fueled the protests in the capital.
India has about 15 judges for each million of its 1.2 billion people, according to United Nations data. In China there are about 159 judges per million people, while in the U.S. the figure is about 108.
Some women’s groups in the city started a rally to the center of the city today, including a scheduled march to India Gate, the venue of violent demonstrations over the weekend when police lobbed tear gas shells and used water cannons to disperse the crowd. A police constable died during the clashes, while the Times of India reported on Dec. 24 that 65 protesters and 78 security personnel were injured.
Postings on Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. sites, and instant messaging on Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM)’s BlackBerry services helped thousands gather in central New Delhi on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, fueling the protests.
This is a “new phenomenon” in India and authorities aren’t fully prepared, Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told reporters yesterday.
“Lessons have been learnt,” he said. “We will have to devise standard operating procedures to deal with such flash mobs turning into protests.”