09/13/2013, 00.00
INDIA
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Four New Delhi gang rapists sentenced to death

by Nirmala Carvalho
The men fatally gang raped a 23-year-old woman. For Bishop Dominic Savio Fernandes, "the death penalty is not and can never be a solution." Society has to rid itself of "its heavy bias against girls and women."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A court in New Delhi sentenced to death the four men responsible for the gang rape of a 23-year-old female student who later died from her injuries. Three days ago, the court convicted the defendants on all charges, but had postponed the sentence.

Since such brutal violence was perpetrated on 16 December 2012, India has been swept by a wave of outrage. Public opinion and many groups in civil society have demanded the death penalty for the rapists.

During the trial, hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse, displaying posters and shouting slogans in favour of hanging all four.

After the sentence was pronounced, the victim's father said he was "happy" because "finally justice has been done."

However, for Mgr Dominic Savio Fernandes, head of the Commission for Family and Women as well as the Commission for human life of the Archdiocese of Mumbai, "the death penalty is not and can never be a solution".

Speaking to AsiaNews, he explained that "Although many people believe that it represents a deterrent against brutal crimes, our experience shows that it is not".

Instead, "I would have preferred a sentence of life imprisonment because it would have given them [the defendants] the opportunity to reflect on the gravity of what they did to that young woman and to humanity as a whole."

"In the Indian context," the bishop added, "undoubtedly, there is a heavy bias against girls and women, beginning in the family and then in wider society. Girls are still perceived as a burden in many parts of our country and women are considered inferior human beings. We need to challenge and change this mind-set."

"To this effect," the prelate explained, the archdiocese "has already started awareness programmes on gender equality, which we carry out in schools and other educational facilities."

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