Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh were found guilty this past Tuesday in New Delhi, following the death of a 23-year-old female student last December. In a trial that lasted about seven months, the Delhi court found the men guilty of murder, rape and kidnapping. The judge presiding over the cased announced he would hand down the sentence this Friday afternoon.
Prosecutor Dayan Krishnan had requested the death penalty, stating, “There can be nothing more diabolic than a helpless girl put through torture.” On the other hand, the defense attorney for Sharma had requested life imprisonment, saying, “The court must bear in mind that life imprisonment is the rule and the death sentence is the exception.”
Following the death of the student last December, multiple protests sparked across the nation calling for the better treatment of women. This past January, police finally brought charges against five of the accused. A sixth was not included because he was only 17 at the time. After Ram Singh (the driver of the bus) committed suicide in his jail cell on March 11 (although his family believes he was murdered), that brought the number of defendants down to four.
While stricter anti-rape laws have been passed by the Indian government (including the death penalty for repeat offenders), the question is whether such laws will be enforced, and more importantly, how that will affect public opinion. According to CNN, “Death sentences issued by Indian courts have rarely been carried out in the past decade. No state executions took place in the country between 2004 and late 2012, when the last surviving gunman from the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai was hanged.”
If the four men get the death penalty on Friday, will things really begin to change for women in India?