Strengthen legal regime against rape in India: UN rights chief

Expressing "deep sadness" at the death of 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay asked the Indian government to strengthen the country's legal regime to get rid of the "terrible scourge".

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said rape is a "national problem" in India, affecting women of all classes and castes and requires national solutions.

Pillay expressed deep sadness over the death of Delhi rape victim and said she joined Indians in "all walks of life in condemning" the attack on the student, expressing confidence that India could emerge reformed in the wake of this "terrible crime."

"India has shown through its social reform movements of the past that it can rid itself of a scourge like rape," she said.

She called for an "urgent and rational debate" aimed at ending violence against women in India.

"What is needed is a new public consciousness and more effective and sensitive enforcement of the law in the interests of women," she said.

"Now is the time to strengthen India's legal regime against rape. I encourage the Indian Government to consult widely with civil society and to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women to visit the country to assist in this process," she added.

"Let us hope that 2013 will be the year the tide is turned on violence against women in India and all women canwalk free without fear," she said.

Six men have been charged with both the rape and murder of the young girl and could face the death penalty if convicted.

Pillay cautioned against the use of death penalty, which she noted was among the demands being made by India's citizens to punish the accused.

She called for "urgent and rational debate on comprehensive measures to address such crimes."

The young physiotherapy student was gangraped in a moving bus in national capital New Delhi by six men who also assaulted her and her male friend with an iron rod before dumping them on the road.

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