Activists wary as India rushes to justice after gang rape

Schoolgirls pray to pay homage to a rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, at a school in the...

Schoolgirls pray to pay homage to a rape victim who was assaulted in New Delhi, at a school in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in this Dec. 29, 2012 file photo. (REUTERS/Amit Dave/File)

Frank Jack Daniel, REUTERS

, Last Updated: 3:56 PM ET

It’s no surprise the Indian street wants faster, harsher justice for sexual crimes after a horrific gang rape that rocked the nation, but some activists worry the government will trample fundamental rights in its rush to be in tune with popular rage.

Last month’s rape of a physiotherapy student on a moving bus and her death on Dec. 28 in hospital triggered a national debate about how to better protect women in India, where official data shows one rape is reported on average every 20 minutes.

Many women’s rights groups are cautiously hopeful the protests and outrage that followed the crime can be channelled into real change - fast-track courts for sexual offences and a plan to hire 2,500 new women police in Delhi are measures already in the works.

But legal experts and some feminists are worried that calls to make rape punishable with death and other draconian penalties will cramp civil liberties and are unconstitutional. They say India needs better policing and pro


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