Outrage Continues In India On Gang-Rape Case

NPR's Julie McCarthy updates Weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden on the national outrage in India over the gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old student as well as the charges against those accused.

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

If you're just tuning in, this is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

In India, outrage continues unabated over sexual violence against women. A court in New Delhi has ordered five men charged in the murder and gang rape of a young woman last month to appear in court on Monday. The incident ignited demands for bringing the widespread nature of such assaults to light. NPR's Julie McCarthy joins us from New Delhi. Warning, some graphic language ahead. Julie, thanks for being here.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Thank you, Jacki.

LYDEN: So this has been a notorious case. Has the mood changed significantly in any way now that the trial seems to be getting underway?

MCCARTHY: Well, the case has tapped this deep vein of anger in India. The demonstrations are smaller, certainly, but the more that's learned, Jacki, about the horrific injuries inflicted on this young woman and her male companion who was beaten with an iron rod and survived, the more the public wants the five accused men to pay with their lives. There is mounting pressure here in India for the death penalty, and that's in a country that rarely carries it out. But the public is in a fury.

Her injuries were so grave that her intestines were destroyed. And after the attacks, she and her friend were thrown out onto the road naked where the defendant allegedly tried to run them over.

LYDEN: Very, very grim details. Julie, there is a sixth accused person, a minor. Tell us how old he is and what happens to him.

MCCARTHY: Well, this is a very tricky subject, Jacki. The sixth accused is said to be 17 1/2. He's a juvenile in the eyes of the law, and he can't be subjected to the same laws as the other defendants. He certainly can't face the death penalty. The maximum penalty he could serve is three years. He's also - and this is where it gets very delicate - he's also alleged to have been the most brutal of the attackers. And his treatment is generating this huge national controversy about whether the age of majority ought to be lowered in India from 18 to 16.

LYDEN: Julie, as you know, India seems to be having a major conversation with itself about charges of sexual violence against women and presumably against men. What's going on now? Is it going to have a lasting impact, do you think?

MCCARTHY: Well, I think the impact already has been huge. Millions of young women and young men want to end the cultural violence against women that's long been tolerated by a society that really equates sexual crimes with a woman's dishonor rather than the criminal behavior of the perpetrator. It's also unleashed, fair to say, a sea change in the coverage of sexual violence.

In the past three weeks, there's been a raft of cases about rapes and murders of women, young girls killing themselves over the shame of being molested. It's now on the front page. It's not buried anymore. And this case has also trained a spotlight on members of parliament who are under investigation for sexual offenses. So the problem is wide, and it's deep, but it's no longer being ignored.

LYDEN: NPR's Julie McCarthy speaking to us from New Delhi. Julie, thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Jacki.

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