UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] on Saturday called [official statement] on India's government to "strengthen critical services for rape victims," expressing sympathy for the family of the 23-year-old medical student who died from injuries sustained in a gang-rape last month. Ban also added that UN entities such as the UN Women [official website] are prepared to assist the country in adopting and enhancing measures to protect sexual assault victims. Ban condemned the recent crime and noted that violence against women should not be tolerated. The deceased was gang raped on a bus [NBC report] in New Delhi on December 16 and died in a Singapore hospital last week. Local authorities arrested and charged [JURIST report] six men, five between 20 and 40 years of age and one under the age of 18, with the murder of the student. Several entities and groups have urged the government to take measures to protect sexual assault victims. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called for new laws [report, text] that would achieve such a goal. The six men could face harsh penalties including the death penalty.
India has been the focal point of several recent controversies concerning 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 stationed with the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.