An Indian court sentenced four men Friday to life in prison for the gang rape of a 19-year-old telephone operator last July. Three of the men are also facing a separate sentencing on Monday for the gang rape of a 23-year-old photojournalist.
The two separate gang rapes that occurred last summer inside an abandoned textile mill in Mumbai — crimes that prompted renewed calls to wipe out the scourge of sexual violence in India.
The victims, a photojournalist and a call-center operator, were raped about a month apart in the same abandoned mill in the Lower Parel section of Mumbai, where luxury malls and condominiums stand alongside sprawling slums.
Three of the men were convicted in both cases. The men, who range in age from 19 to 26, face 20 years to life in prison, prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said. Sentencing is expected Friday. Two minors, meanwhile, are being tried separately by a juvenile court.
"(I) hope this verdict will act as a deterrent," said Maharashtra Home Minister R. R. Patil, adding that the cases were tried in the "fastest possible time."
In the first case, a call-center operator was raped on July 31, 2013 inside the abandoned textile mill. Then on Aug. 22, a photojournalist on assignment with a male colleague was approached by men who offered to help them get permission to shoot photos in the mill. Once inside, the male colleague was beaten and tied up while the attackers took turns raping the woman.
The 22-year-old photojournalist stunned the nation after her attack by telling the Times of India in an interview that "rape is not the end of life" — a groundbreaking statement given that many rape victims are often shunned by their families, fired from jobs or driven from their home villages. The woman cannot be identified under Indian law.
In the weeks after the attack on the photojournalist, Mumbai police said the suspects had little to no education and lived in the slums near the abandoned mill.
Both trials were held by a fast-track court in India, where the judiciary is notorious for delays. But rape cases have taken on a sense of urgency since December 2012, when a 23-year-old medical student was fatally gang-raped and beaten on a moving bus in New Delhi, which resulted in four men being sentenced to death.
Rape, rarely talked about in India's deeply conservative society, became front-page news, with demands that police do more to protect women.
Pledging to crack down, the federal government created fast-track courts for rape cases, doubled prison terms for rape, and criminalized voyeurism and stalking.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press