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India supreme court upholds death penalty in gang rape case

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of India [official website] upheld [opinion, PDF] death sentences on Friday for four men who fatally gang raped a woman in 2012. The group, five men and a juvenile, lured the young woman, a para-medical student, and her friend onto a bus in New Dehli whereupon they repeatedly raped the woman before beating both her and her friend with a metal bar. Two weeks later the woman died from internal injuries in a Singapore hospital. Four of the attackers were sentenced to death in 2013, the fifth having hanged himself in prison during the seven-month trial. The juvenile was charged with the maximum sentence allowed for a minor and was freed [JURIST report] from jail after serving three years. Opponents of capital punishment argue that the judges were pressured by media and the public to uphold the sentence. As there a many convictions for rapists and murderers that did not receive the death penalty, critics of the decision assert that the ruling was subjective and will therefore not serve as a sufficient deterrent.

The crime prompted thousands of women across India to break their silence over unreported sexual violence. There has been a flurry of incidents involving gang-rapes of women in India the past few years, prompting the government to reform the criminal legal code regarding sexual violence [JURIST op-ed]. Prominent human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch [advocacy websites] have criticized [JURIST report] various aspects of the new laws stating that India has only reformed the most archaic of its laws and has failed to meet international standards for women's rights. In 2015, police registered more than 34,000 rape complaints. In January a court in India convicted [JURIST report] six of the eight accused of gang raping and murdering a 20-year-old college student in the Kamduni village district of the state of West Bengal. Also in January Indian police were accused [JURIST report] of raping at least 16 women in Chhattisgarh in Bijapur district in October 2015.

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