Four men convicted of a gang rape that shocked India and attracted worldwide attention will be executed.
India’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld a lower court’s decision to sentence the men to death.
According to CNN affiliate News18, the judgment was met with applause in the courtroom.
Vinay Sharma, Akshay Thakur, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh Singh were originally sentenced in September 2013, but they appealed the decision in the country’s top court.
The case led to protests across India and intense media coverage around the world, shining a light on India’s pervasive problem of sexual violence against women.
On the evening of December 16, 2012, Jyoti Singh Pandey, a physiotherapy student in Delhi, was leaving a movie theater after watching “The Life of Pi” with a friend.
It was late when they left the cinema, so the pair got on a private bus to go to their suburban homes. That was when their nightmare started.
According to police, the bus driver and at least five other men were drunk and looking for a “joyride.”
Police said the men took turns raping the woman, using an iron rod to violate her as the bus drove around the city for almost an hour. Her male companion was beaten as he tried to fight them off. When they had finished, the men dumped their two victims by the side of the road.
Following the ordeal, Singh’s injuries were so severe some internal organs had to be removed. She died two weeks later at a hospital in Singapore.
“I want them burned alive,” a dying Singh told her mother and a visiting magistrate who was recording her statement at the hospital.
Fight for justice
In the days following the rape, police arrested and jailed six men. Thousands of Indians marched in protest at the crime across the nation’s capital and in cities around the country. They gave Singh a nickname — “Nirbhaya,” meaning “fearless one.”
The outrage pushed India’s government to set up the Justice Verma commission to come up with legal solutions to reduce sexual violence. It also passed laws setting stricter penalties for these types of crime and set up a fund in honor of the victim.
But justice has not been a straight and easy path.
Throughout, Singh’s parents Badrinath and Asha have continued to speak to the media and take part in activism around stopping sexual violence.
Though Singh’s case sparked widespread calls for reform in India, according to government records, there was an increase of 50% in the number of reported rapes in the past five years, to 34,000 in 2015.
Experts say the increase is likely caused by a broadening of the definition of what constitutes rape, and more openness about reporting attacks. However, many warn that the figures are still likely an underestimation.
Singh’s case was an outlier in that she did not know the perpetrators. Of reported rapes, according to official statistics, 95% were committed by someone known to the victim.
Activists and policy makers have expressed frustration at the lack of progress, saying there is no political will to move forward on the issue.
“There hasn’t been the push needed to implement these laws at the state level,” Aruna Kashyap, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch, told CNN in January.
“The overall response to women’s safety is rooted in protectionism — keep them at home, keep them safe — rather than create spaces that are safe and equal.”