Four men were convicted of the fatal December 2012 gang rape of a 23-year-old student earlier today in New Delhi, a brutal case that shocked both India and the world. Judge Yogesh Khanna found the defendants Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, and Akshay Kumar Singh guilty of kidnapping, rape, and murder. Their sentencing hearing is set for Wednesday, when they could face the death penalty or up to life imprisonment.
The physiotherapy student and a male friend had boarded a public bus in New Delhi on the night of December 16, unaware that it was being driven by joyriders. The driver and five other men on the bus proceeded to attack and assault the pair with a metal rod before dumping them half-naked on to the street. The woman died 13 days later, while her companion survived.
The sheer violence of the crime electrified a nation that faces a growing crisis of sexual assault: The National Crime Records Bureau of India recorded 585 cases of rape in New Delhi in 2012. The problem isn't restricted to the nation's capital, either. Less than three weeks ago, a photojournalist was gang-raped in Mumbai, considered one of the country's safer cities for women.
The turmoil surrounding the case has dominated both national and international news for the past ten months. Thousands of protesters clashed with police in the days that followed the incident, and a special government panel was set up to attempt to find some way to address this disturbing problem spiraling out of control. In March, the Indian government eventually altered its laws in order punish rapists more harshly. Indian law as it pertains to the protection of women is a hodgepodge of legacy colonial Indian Penal Code, patriarchal attitudes, and contemporary reforms. As such, "outraging the modesty of a woman," ill-defined for over a century, remains a crime in India. New laws address stalking, acid attacks, voyeurism, and a more expanded definition of rape, so that a lack of physical struggle now does not equal consent. Marital rape, however, is still legal — a noted exclusion that represents the lingering obstacles to more modern protections for Indian women. (BBC)