NEW YORK: Delhi gangrape victim Nirbhaya was among nine women from around the world honoured by the US State Department on Friday with the International Women of Courage Award.
“Finally, we honor a woman known simply as Nirbhaya – brave heart, fearless. Nirbhaya boarded a bus in Delhi last December where she was brutally gang raped, tossed away, left to die. But she kept fighting,” John Kerry, secretary of state, said in his remarks while honouring the 23-year-old medical posthumously.
“As Nirbhaya fought for her life, she fought for justice and gave detailed accounts of her attack…Nirbhaya’s bravery inspired millions with simple message: No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. Nirbhaya’s fight survives her. With great sadness, we honor Nirbhaya as a woman of exceptional courage,” Kerry said. Then he read a message from the family in which they described their daughter’s journey and her determination to succeed in life.
Then Kerry asked everyone in the audience to join him and First Lady Michelle Obama in observing silence in memory of Nirbhaya.
The 23-year-old medical student was gangraped by six men on a moving bus, beaten and later thrown off the bus with her male companion in Delhi on the night of December 16. She died in a Singapore hospital two weeks later. Since the rape victim could not be named under Indian laws, she came be known as `Nirbhaya’ or the fearless.
However, her real name was Jyoti Singh Pandey.
Among the `extraordinary women’ honoured is Tibetan author and blogger Tsering Woeser, who is under house arrest in Tibet.
First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the honourees. She and Secretary Kerry later posed with the honourees.
Praising the Indian braveheart, a State Department press release said, “Known to India and the World as `Nirbhaya’ (Fearless), the courageous 23-year-old physiotherapy intern whose brutal gang rape on a moving bus in Delhi in December inspired widespread protests, has become the foundation of a popular movement to end violence against women in India.
“For millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family’s continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women.’’
The press release had said, “Nirbhaya bravely recorded two police statements while in the hospital, repeatedly called for justice against the six attackers, and stated her will to survive to see justice done. Like many Indians inspired by her struggle, she was born into a working class family that invested their hopes and life savings into her dream to pursue medicine.
“She had just graduated from a physiotherapy program when her life was cut short. In the wake of her death just two weeks after the attack, India’s active civil society began advocating heavily for legislation and social programs to stem gender-based violence in all its forms and to ensure higher rape conviction rates and gender-sensitive law enforcement and justice systems. Thanks to these efforts, the Indian government has begun to take action to follow through on those demands.’’