NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - An Indian student who was gang-raped and murdered is among 10 women who will receive the U.S. State Department’s International Women of Courage Award, a U.S. government statement said.
The case of the 23-year-old woman, who was beaten, raped and tortured by six men on a bus in New Delhi in December, sparked a public outcry and has fuelled national debate about the treatment of women in India. She died of internal injuries after being thrown out of the bus.
The posthumous award to “Nirbhaya” (Fearless) - a Hindi name given by the media to the victim who reportedly fought back against her attackers - will be presented by Secretary of State John Kerry and First Lady Michelle Obama on March 8, International Women’s Day.
“Known to India and the world as ‘Nirbhaya’, the courageous 23-year-old physiotherapy intern whose brutal gang rape on a moving bus in Delhi in December inspired widespread protests, has become the foundation of a popular movement to end violence against women in India,” a State Department press release said.
“For millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family’s continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women.”
The student’s ordeal led to demonstrations by thousands of people demanding justice and better treatment for women, and put pressure on the police and the government to improve a judicial system which experts says often fails victims of sexual assault.
Five men and one juvenile were charged with the woman’s rape and murder and are on trial in a special fast-track court set up after the public outcry.
The government is also amending the criminal law regarding crimes against women and last week announced a new fund of $186 million to improve the safety and empowerment of India’s women.
“In the wake of her (Nirbhaya‘s) death just two weeks after the attack, India’s active civil society began advocating heavily for legislation and social programs to stem gender-based violence in all its forms and to ensure higher rape conviction rates and gender-sensitive law enforcement and justice systems,” the statement said.
“Thanks to these efforts, the Indian government has begun to take action to follow through on those demands.”
The annual award recognises women around the world who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk, and has been given to 67 women from 45 countries since it was founded in 2007.
The women receiving the award this year include Malalai Bahaduri, an Afghan army officer working to stop drug trafficking, Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan author and blogger, and Fartuun Adan, a leading Somali human rights activist.