Not-so-swift justice for rape victims?

Not-so-swift justice for rape victims?

The five men accused in the gang-rape of a 22-year-old photojournalist in Mumbai will be tried in a fast-track court with a high-profile prosecutor.

That much has changed.

But nine months after the brutal Delhi gang-rape that led to the creation of those fast-track rape courts and the introduction of the death penalty for rape if the victim dies, many Indians are asking if justice is really swifter.

"We passed a law but till today the (Delhi) case has not been completed. If it is fast-track, is there a timeframe for it?" opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj asked in Parliament. "We are not able to give quick justice."

In spite of daily hearings in the Delhi gang-rape case, the trial against the four accused has stretched for eight months; it is now likely to be concluded next month. In that case, which galvanised the public around the issue of safety for women, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was raped and brutalised by five men and a teenager in a moving bus in the capital city on Dec 16 last year.

She died two weeks later at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where she had been flown for medical care.

The horrific incident triggered national protests and world headlines, pushing the government to strengthen India's anti-rape law. Then came last week, when a young photojournalist was gang-raped while on assignment with a male colleague in an empty mill in Mumbai.

Activists and experts say that despite the threat of harsher punishment, the number of rapes continues to climb. There were 24,923 rapes last year, up 3 per cent from a year earlier. Many cases, activists say, go unreported.

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