After gang-rape sentencing in India, UN Women urges a comprehensive approach to end violence against women

Statement by Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative of UN Women’s Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka


UN Women takes note of the sentencing of the four accused found guilty in the attack on the 23-year-old New Delhi student in December 2012. 

While the United Nations does not support capital punishment, perpetrators of crimes against women must be brought to justice. Evidence from across the world suggests that higher conviction rates serve as deterrents to violence. We therefore call on the Government of India to do everything in its power to ensure speedy justice for survivors of violence, especially those from marginalized communities.  

The December attack was the tipping point that has brought attention to violence against women not only in India, but globally. Many progressive reforms and changes have resulted – for example the historic Justice Verma Committee – which informed the subsequent approval by Parliament of the Criminal Amendment Act 2013

The Act called for an end to impunity, and recognized a broad range of sexual crimes against women. The Law acknowledges that lesser crimes often escalate into more grave ones – and deterrence is important.  

The Indian criminal justice system is responding to the issue of crime in all its complexity. Many aspects of the infrastructure of Indian traditional criminal justice policy are undergoing fundamental rethinking. The recent approaches to policing, adjudication, sentencing, imprisonment and community corrections are changing in significant ways. 

But laws by themselves are not the solution - their implementation also matters, as does changing mindsets. Violence against women is preventable, not inevitable. Prevention is achievable because the majority of the factors associated with men’s use of violence can be changed. This has been reaffirmed by a recently published UN study in Asia-Pacific entitled, Why Do Some Men Use Violence against Women and How Can We Prevent It?

The study was conducted by Partners for Prevention in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea. Supported by UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA and UNV, the study found that men begin perpetrating violence at much younger ages than previously thought. Half of those who admitted to rape reported their first time was when they were teenagers; for example 23 per cent of men who raped in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, and 16 per cent in Cambodia were 14 years of age or younger when they first committed this crime. 

A 2010 study by the Government of Delhi, JAGORI and UN Women showed that 54 per cent of women, and 69 per cent of men who see women getting harassed, prefer to not get involved. Public apathy needs to be converted into public empathy. We need communities and individuals to be a part of this change in mindsets, attitudes and beliefs. 

Through community mobilisation, school and sports-based programmes and engagement with people who influence culture, we can send the message that violence against women is unacceptable. 

UN Women works with young people to champion positive role models for young men to end violence against women. 

Violence against women is not a women’s issue but a human rights issue. UN Women joins the Government and people of India in recognizing that we need to take stronger action together to change the present reality. Every girl and woman has the right to a life free of violence.

Also see: