Will this verdict be the first step for a positive change towards treatment of Indian women, or will men take revenge on them?
Excerpt from The New York Times article:
4 Sentenced to Death in Rape Case That Riveted India
By ELLEN BARRY and BETWA SHARMA
Published: September 13, 2013
NEW DELHI — Four men convicted of a brutal gang rape were sentenced Friday to die by hanging, a decision met with satisfaction on the part of the victim’s parents and triumphant cheers from the crowd outside the courthouse, where some held up makeshift nooses and pictures of hanging bodies.
Activists reacted to the sentencing outside the Saket District Court on Friday.
A crowd gathered outside the Saket courthouse in New Delhi on Friday.
The four men — a fruit vendor, a bus attendant, a gym handyman and an unemployed man — were found guilty on Tuesday of raping a young woman on a moving bus last December, penetrating her with a metal rod and inflicting grave internal injuries, then dumping her out on the roadside.
The country was riveted by the story of the woman, who died of her injuries two weeks later, and tens of thousands of people flooded the streets to demand tougher policing and prosecution of sex crimes.
But until the last minute it was unclear whether this would lead to death sentences in a country where liberal and populist impulses have strained against one another for decades, reserving the death sentences for “the rarest of rare cases.” News of the decision was met with a wave of jubilation on the street outside.
“This is the beginning of freedom for Indian women today,” said Raman Deep Kaur, 38, a cosmetologist. “Today we are free, because these men are going to be killed.”
It is far from clear, however, that the four men will be executed in the near future.
India has liberal appeal laws and death sentences are routinely followed by years of motions to the Supreme Court and the president. Sadashiv Gupta, a defense lawyer for one of the men, said he was confident the sentence would be commuted to life in prison.
“I met with my client and I told him, ‘You are going to get the death penalty, take it in stride and don’t panic,’ ” Mr. Gupta said. “I think he shall not be hanged.”
During the trial, defense attorneys invoked the “rarest of the rare” language laid out in a 1980 Supreme Court decision that overturned a death sentence. One cited the words of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement: “God gives life and he alone can take it, not man-made courts.” They also invoked mitigating circumstances, such as the young age and poverty of the defendants, or the fact that they had been drinking, undercutting the notion that the crime was premeditated.
But Judge Yogesh Khanna clearly rejected those arguments, saying this crime embodied “the rarest of the rare,” and invoked the possibility of a larger wave of violence against women.
“In these times when crimes against women are on the rise, the court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act,” he said, according to reporters in the courtroom.
At this, one of the defendants, Vinay Sharma, broke down in tears and cried loudly.
A. P. Singh, who defended two of the men, called the decision “completely unfair” and said it had been made under intense political pressure at a moment when Indian leaders are looking ahead to parliamentary elections next spring.
“I will contest this case until the last moments of my life,” he said.
Defense arguments were drowned out by cries for execution – including from the victim herself, who before her death told a court official that her attackers “should be burned alive.” Protesters have congregated regularly outside the courthouse, chanting “Hang the rapists,” and on Friday they turned their wrath on the defense attorneys, forcing one to rush from the crowd.
Rosy John, 62, a housewife watching the furor outside the courtroom this week, said her only objection to the death sentence was that it was too humane a punishment.
“After death, they will get freedom,” she said. “They should be tortured and given shocks their whole life. They have made so many people suffer, including their own families.”
Polls show that Indians remain ambivalent about using the death penalty, with 40 percent of respondents saying it should be abolished, according to a survey by CNN, IBN and The Hindu, a respected daily newspaper. Among the vocal opponents of using it in this case were a number of women’s rights groups.