Police in New Delhi, India on Saturday charged six men with the murder of a woman who died from injuries sustained in a gang-rape. The woman, a 23-year-old medical student, was gang raped on a bus [NBC report] in New Delhi on December 16 and died in a Singapore hospital on Saturday. The suspects, who were arrested shortly after the attack, included five men between the ages of 20 and 40 and one man under the age of 18. The rape has sparked a larger debate about violence against women in India. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Saturday called for new laws [press release] to protect victims and crack down on perpetrators of rape and sexual assault. Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde [The Hindu backgrounder] said that the government was seeking the harshest possible punishment for the six suspects, which could include the death penalty.
India has been the focal point of several recent controversies concerning the issues of rape and sexual rights. Last week India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official profile] called for peace [JURIST report] after a protest over sexual violence resulted in a clash between protesters and police. In February the Indian Supreme Court heard additional arguments [JURIST report] challenging the decriminalization of homosexual intercourse. In 2009, the Delhi High Court decriminalized homosexual conduct [JURIST report] by declaring India's anti-sodomy law unconstitutional. In 2008, the UN found significant evidence that Indian peacekeeping troops committed sex-crimes [JURIST report] while stations with the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.