Education About Asia

Activism and Women’s Rights in India

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People around the world watched as thousands took to the streets in New Delhi in December 2012 following the gang rape of twenty-three-year-old physiotherapy student Jyoti Pandey. While similar protests were held in other metropolitan cities across the country, the protests in Delhi became so intense that the government imposed a curfew and sanctioned the use of force by its riot police. Domestic as well as international media coverage of these events helped fuel public outrage. The protesters made varied and lengthy demands for improving public safety for women, including calls to make public transportation safe; to encourage the police to be more responsive; to reform the judicial process, including reform to the Indian Evidence Act, the Penal Code, and the sentencing standards; and to generally provide for greater dignity, autonomy, and rights for women. As a result of the public outcry, a three-member committee chaired by legal expert Chief Justice J. S. Verma was convened to recommend changes to the criminal law on sexual violence. Based on the committee’s recommendations, the government passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act (2013), which addresses a series of concerns expressed by various women’s groups, but omits the criminalization of assault perpetrated by spouses or the armed forces.