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UN nudges India to act

New Delhi, Dec. 30: UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has expressed “deep sorrow” at the death of the Delhi gang rape victim and urged India to undertake “reforms to deter” crimes against women and “strengthen critical services for rape victims”.

“UN Women and other parts of the United Nations stand ready to support such reform efforts with technical expertise and other support,” a spokesperson for Ban said this morning at the UN headquarters in New York.

“UN Women” is how the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women is usually referred to. Ban welcomed “the efforts of the government of India to take urgent action” and called for “further steps and reforms to deter such crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

UN Women works to stop the trafficking of women and domestic violence and “to ensure the creation and implementation of pro-women laws, policies and programmes”.

Since 2009, it has been running a Safe Cities Programme in partnership with the Delhi government to explore “solutions and strategies to make Delhi safer for women”. It looks to intervene for better “public transport, civic awareness, design of public spaces, provision and maintenance of public infrastructure, stronger legislation and support to victims”.

A survey by the programme has shown “that almost two out of every three women in Delhi’s public spaces reported facing incidents of sexual harassment between two to five times”.

On December 20, UN Women expressed “indignation” and condemned “the ghastly gang rape”. Regional programme director Anne F. Stenhammer called for “tougher action” to “change the present reality and culture of impunity”.

“We urge that political will must translate into concrete action and stronger implementation of already existing laws and regulation,” she said.

She added that a 2010 study had shown that 54 per cent women and 69 per cent 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”.

Singapore move

A Singapore minister said he would cite the “heartbreaking case” of the Delhi gang rape victim as an example to reject demands for abolition of the death penalty in the city state, a PTI report said.

Law and foreign affairs minister K. Shanmugam, who is of Indian origin, wrote this in a Facebook post. The comment drew hundreds of responses, with some supporting Shanmugam’s stance and others saying the death penalty wasn’t justified.