Vinay Sharma, Ashkay Thakur, Pawan Gupta, and Mukesh Sing were convicted of murder, rape, and kidnapping; last December, they tortured and raped a young woman who had been heading home from the movies. The men raped her one-by-one for nearly an hour before violating her with a metal rod, and afterward left her on the side of the road. The victim died two weeks later of critical damage to her organs,sparking massive ongoing protests in the region and around the world. (The men were joined as well by a minor who was sentenced previously this year and the bus driver, who committed suicide in jail in March prior to sentencing.)
Protesters outside of the court erupted in cheering when the men were handed their sentence, and the victim's family felt the decision was fair. "We are very happy," the victim's father told reporters. "Justice has been delivered." Calls for the men to be executed had come from high-profile politicians and many other Indians throughout the ongoing trial.
According to Indian government statistics, a woman is raped every 22 minutes in the region. Karuna Nundy, a lawyer for India's Supreme Court, says the high-profile rape case has caused a surge in reports. Last year, 433 women had reported rapes between January and August; this year the number rose to 1,036. "It's all very new," she said. "It's a beginning." It is likely survivors feel more empowered to report in light of the outpouring of support this victim's case received, and how public the pursuit for justice on her behalf has been. Protesters sought out the death penalty, as did the prosecutors in the case, in order to send a message about sexual violence in India.
"In these times when crimes against women are on the rise," Judge Yogesh Khanna said when announcing the sentence, "the court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act." He added that the crime was one of the "rarest of the rare category" deserving capital punishment, which is not a common sentence in Indian courts.
The sentence must be confirmed by India's High Court and can be appealed to the court, and their lawyer has confirmed that they will appeal within the month.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 1/2/2013, 3/4/2013, 3/11/2013, 9/10/2013; NBC News 9/13/2-13; CNN 9/13/2013; Washington Post 9/13/2013