NEW DELHI, India — The youngest man implicated in the Dec. 16 Delhi gang rape has been convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to three years in a juvenile reform facility, minus the time he has already spent in detention.
A controversial sentencing, and the first to take place in the internationally infamous incident, some in India have argued for reform that would dole out tougher punishments to juvenile offenders.
The sentence is the maximum penalty allowed for criminals under the age of 18.
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The family of the victim, who was raped so savagely that she later died from injuries sustained during the attack, called the punishment "too lenient," according to CNN/IBN.
"This is completely unacceptable to us," said the victim's father, Badrinath Singh, according to the Associated Press. "We are not satisfied with this outcome. He is virtually being set free. This is very wrong."
"No family should have a daughter if this is the fate that lies ahead for women. In this country, it is crime to be born a girl," Singh added.
The brother of the murdered woman attempted to attack the juvenile offender as he was led out of court, writes the Times of India, but was eventually restrained.
“India is one of few countries in the world which caps sentences for juveniles regardless of the crime,” said lawyer Kamal Kumar Pandey to Bloomberg, who had petitioned India's Supreme Court to change its juvenile offender laws earlier this year. “It is totally irrational. There is no justice for the victims.”
"We only want him to be hanged, that's all," Singh, father of the victim, told reporters outside the court before the verdict was delivered. "He had knowledge of what he was doing. How can he be considered a juvenile?"
In December, the vicious gang rape sparked angry protests and sustained soul searching over an apparent epidemic of violence against women. Among the clamor were calls for an amendment of India's juvenile justice laws, including calls to lower the age at which criminals are considered adults.
However, a government panel formed to revise and strengthen India's laws on sexual assault opted not to lower the age bar.
The trial of four adult suspects is still underway, with the court hearing closing arguments. In that case, expected to be resolved in a few weeks, the men face the death sentence if they are convicted.
A fifth adult suspect died in jail in an apparent suicide in March.
The brutal gang-rape case has brought renewed attention the problem of rape and sexual assualt in India, where more and more high-profile cases have been hitting the news since the year began.
Earlier in August, a young photo-journalist was gang-raped in Mumbai by a group of men, although she survived the incident. A four-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh was raped and beaten in April, later dying of her wounds.
Rape rates appear to be on the rise in India, with government data indicating that a woman is raped every two hours — and that most rape victims know their assailants personally.
Jason Overdorf reported from New Delhi.