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Teens In India Could Be Tried As Adults In Rape, Murder Cases Under New Law

| by Nik Bonopartis
India Rape Protests.India Rape Protests.

Teenagers in India could be tried as adults in rape and murder cases after lawmakers approved a new parliamentary amendment on Dec. 22.

The change in law was sparked by the lenient sentence given to a teenager who was almost 18 years old when he participated in a gang rape of a woman in 2012, CNN reported.

In the Dec. 16, 2012, incident, the 23-year-old woman and a male friend were returning home from seeing the movie "The Life of Pi" when they boarded a bus in South Delhi.

The bus driver and five men on the bus were drunk, according to police, and they beat up the woman's friend before dragging her to the back of the bus and repeatedly raping her for almost an hour while the bus was still moving. They dumped the two victims on the side of a road when they were done.

The men used an iron rod to violate the woman, and the attack was so brutal that some of the woman's internal organs were later removed. She died from her injuries two weeks later.

The details of the attack prompted demonstrations and riots, as well as calls for changes in the country's legal system.

One of the rapists hanged himself in prison before the trial, and four of the men responsible were sentenced to death, but the teenager was sentenced to three years in prison, which angered the public.

The recent release of the young man prompted outrage, and Indian lawmakers were spurred to action. The released rapist has not been publicly identified because of Indian laws about minors.

"He has been moved to an undisclosed location, where he will be observed," Delhi state government spokesman Nagendar Sharma told CNN. "But technically, he is no longer in custody."

Experts say there's an "epidemic" of rape and sexual abuse in the country, but hard statistics aren't available because the majority of rapes go unreported, according to The Hindu.

The amendment passed by India's parliament authorizes "juvenile tribunals" for suspects between the ages of 16 and 18 who are accused of serious crimes like rape and murder, according to CNN. Experts will assess the mental maturity of those suspects, and their reports will determine if the teenagers are tried as adults or minors.

The amendment must be approved by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee before it becomes law.

Sources: CNN (2) (3), The Hindu, International Business Times / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons