Delhi Gang-Rape Accused Commits Suicide; Victim Honored by the US

First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry honor the recipients of the International Women of Courage Award in the Dean Acheson Auditorium at the US Department of State in Washington, DC, March 8, 2013

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Washington, DC/Delhi – Ram Singh, the main accused in the December 16 gang-rape of the 23-year-old physiotherapy intern whose brutal gang-rape in Delhi on a moving bus in December inspired widespread protest, committed suicide inside the Tihar Jail early Monday morning, according to Indian media.

The news came as the young woman known to India and the world as Nirbhaya (Fearless) was posthumously presented with the prestigious International Women of Courage Award at an award ceremony at the US State Department.

US First Lady Michelle Obama presided over the event, saying, “The potential that I see in … all of our young women all across this world, that reminds me that the rest of us must work to lift up the women and girls in our own communities — because we know that when women and girls rise, their communities and their countries rise with them

The US Secretary of State John Kerry also addressed the audience, asking them to stand and join him in a moment of silence for Nirbhaya, saying, “Nirbhaya boarded a bus in Delhi last December where she was brutally gang raped, tossed away, left to die. But she kept fighting.”

“As Nirbhaya fought for her life, she fought for justice and gave detailed accounts of her attack used to arrest her rapists,” said Kerry, adding, “(Her) bravery inspired millions of women and men to come together with a simple message: no more. No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens. No more stigma against victims or survivors.”

“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 State Department said in a statement.

The main accused of the attack hanged himself instead of facing justice as was advocated by Nirbhaya, who the US State Department noted, “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.”

The statement said, “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.”

Highlighting the movement launched by India’s active civil society, the State Department said because of this advocacy “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,” there has been movement from the Indian government, “to take action to follow through on those demands.”

As the news of the suicide broke, the voices on social media became restive with doubts of the accuracy of the reports and questioned whether the death was in fact a suicide.

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