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Seeking transformative justice in the aftermath of the New Delhi rape case

by Ruth Messinger and Javid Syed

On September 13th, ten months after the brutal gang rape of a 23-year-old Indian woman in New Delhi, the four men accused of the crime were found guilty and sentenced to death.

Importantly, this case has garnered international attention and sparked meaningful dialogue among human rights activists, lawmakers and Indian citizens. But we’ve learned from Indian feminists—such as Trupti Shah, Hasina Khan, Geeta Misra and Jaya Sharma—that we cannot view this one case in isolation. We must see it as intrinsically linked to a crippling cycle of violence, oppression and humiliation that women, girls, Dalits (“untouchables”) and other marginalized communities experience in India on a daily basis—often at the hands of police, health care providers, employers and family members.

Swift and fair trials are critical to encourage survivors of violence to seek justice and to raise awareness, but ending gender-based violence requires much more than these convictions.

Taking one step forward in the aftermath of the rape, India’s parliament passed a new law to stem sexual violence against Indian women. While this piece of legislation represents some progress, it is regrettably not enough. The law does not protect women from being raped by their husbands nor does it make it easier to prosecute gender-based violence perpetrated by India’s national security forces.