An Indian court has convicted four men over the fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving bus in New Delhi last December.
Sentences for the men, who face the possibility of hanging, are expected to be handed down tomorrow.
The brutal attack set off waves of protest in India, giving voice to years of anger over the treatment of women and a silent epidemic of sexual harassment and rape.
The men, along with another suspect who hanged himself in prison and a juvenile who was convicted in August, were riding through the city on an off-duty bus in December when they tricked the 23-year-old woman and a male friend into boarding.
They beat the woman’s friend into submission, then held her down and repeatedly raped her. They also penetrated her repeatedly with an iron rod, causing severe internal injuries that led to her death two weeks later. As a rape victim, the woman cannot be identified under Indian law.
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the courtroom today, calling the case a wake-up call for India and demanding the death penalty for the men.
“Every girl at any age experiences this - harassment or rape. We don’t feel safe,” said law school graduate Rapia Pathania. “That’s why we’re here. We want this case to be an example for every other case that has been filed and will be filed.”
Facing public protests and political pressure, the government reformed some of its antiquated laws on sexual violence, creating fast-track courts to avoid the painfully long rape trials that can easily last over a decade. The trial of the four men, which took about seven months, was astonishingly fast by Indian standards.
Reading out his verdict, Judge Yogesh Khanna said the men had committed “murder of a helpless person”.
The parents of the rape victim had tears in their eyes as the verdicts were read out.
The woman’s mother, wearing a pink sari, sat just a few feet from the convicted men in a tiny courtroom jammed with lawyers, police and reporters.
AP Singh, a lawyer for the men, said all were innocent.
“These accused have been framed simply to please the public,” he told reporters. “This is not a fair trial.”