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India executes four men convicted of 2012 Delhi bus rape and murder

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India has executed the four men who were convicted of the brutal gang rape and murder of a young woman on bus in Delhi in 2012, a case which shocked the world and brought India’s problem with sexual violence against women into the spotlight.

Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh had been found guilty in a 2013 trial and sentenced to death by hanging, but their execution had been postponed multiple times due to Supreme Court appeals.

The four were hanged at dawn on Friday in the capital’s high-security Tihar prison. It was the first time in five years that capital punishment has been carried out in India and hundreds gathered outside the prison gates, shouting “death to rapists”.

“It took seven years but justice was delivered,” said Delhi chief minister Arwind Kejriwal.

Gang raped on a moving bus and left for dead on roadside in December 2012, the victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student, clung to life for two weeks before succumbing to her injuries. She died in a hospital in Singapore, where she had been transferred in a desperate attempt to save her. Prevented from using her real name, the Indian press christened her Nirbhaya, meaning fearless.

Nirbhaya’s mother Asha Devi, who had campaigned fiercely for her daughter’s murderers to be hanged, said that “today is dedicated to daughters of the country”.

“As soon as I returned from Supreme Court, I hugged the picture of my daughter and said today you got justice,” said Devi. “I thank the judiciary and government.”

“Our wait for justice was painful and agonising,” added Nibhaya’s father.

Nirbhaya’s case caused outrage around the world, prompted a moment of reckoning for India over its endemic problem of sexual violence against women. However, while tougher new laws were introduced, including the death penalty for rape in some cases, the situation is widely regarded has having only got worse in India, with statistic showing a women is raped in India every 20 minutes. According to Thompson Reuters, India is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman.

In November, the brutal gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old vet in Hyderabad, whose body was burned and dumped, once again caused a national scandal over the failure to tackle the issue of sexual violence.

The 10bn rupee Nirbhaya fund, which was created by the government for initiatives to help women’s safety, also remains almost completely untouched, with 91% unspent.

Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal, who has carried out multiple hunger strikes in protest at India’s appalling record on crimes against women, said: “It’s a historic day, Nirbhaya got justice after over seven years, her soul must have found peace today. Country has given a strong message to rapists that if you commit this crime you will be hanged.”

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