Protests, prayers mark one year since Delhi rape

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Associated Press

Posted on December 16, 2013 at 8:32 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 16 at 8:36 AM

NEW DELHI (AP) — Students, Bollywood actresses and women's groups held rallies and candlelight vigils across India on Monday in memory of a young woman whose fatal gang rape on a moving bus one year ago shook the nation's conscience.

The victim, a 23-year-old student, was heading home with a male friend after watching the movie "Life of Pi" when six men lured them onto a private bus. They beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal injuries.

The two were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died two weeks later.

Protesters and politicians at a public meeting in New Delhi spoke of changes in social attitudes, tough new laws and police reform adopted after the massive street protests that followed the gang rape.

In New Delhi, Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar led a group of musicians on a bus that performed street plays at several places along the same route taken by the rape victim's bus.

In central Delhi, a candlelight vigil was held by dozens of students in memory of Nirbhaya, or "fearless," the name given by the Indian media to the woman because rape victims cannot be identified under Indian law. Prayers were held in a temple in a southern suburb.

The attack sparked protests across the country. Tens of thousands of people held daily rallies, and newspapers gave intense coverage. The outrage spurred the government to adopt more stringent laws that doubled prison terms for rape and criminalized voyeurism, stalking, acid attacks and the trafficking of women. Fast-track courts were created for rape cases.

Rape, rarely talked about in India's deeply conservative society, became front-page news, with demands that police do more to protect women and that courts treat sexual violence seriously.

Nirbhaya's assailants were tried relatively quickly in a country where sexual assault cases often languish for years.

Four of the defendants were sentenced to death. Another hanged himself in prison, though his family insists he was killed. An 18-year-old who was a juvenile at the time of the attack was sentenced to three years in a reform home.

There has been a surge in the number of rapes being reported: Between January and October this year, 1,330 rapes were reported in Delhi and its suburbs, compared with 706 for all of 2012, according to government figures.

But the victim's father said that although laws on crimes against women have changed, Indians need to change social attitudes toward women.

"Social mindsets have to change. Only then can we say a difference has been made. Only then can I say my daughter did not die in vain," he told the public meeting.

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