Today the Juvenile Justice Board in Delhi, India was supposed to deliver the verdict against the youngest of the six men accused of gang-raping a 23-year old physiotherapy student while she was riding on a bus on December 16, 2012. The accused was 17 at the time of the rape and turned 18 last month. Police reports indicate that the defendant was allegedly the most brutal of the men involved. However, according to the provisions of India's Juvenile Justice Act, the maximum sentence possible for a minor is three years in custody, including time already served. In a dramatic turn, India's Supreme Court is now considering changing the legal definition of a juvenile in response to this case. The verdict has been delayed until August 5 of this year.
This news sets the stage for the rest of the Delhi rape trials and suggests that the five remaining adult defendants will receive harsh sentences from the courts. The Indian government is keenly aware that this particular case is being scrutinized by the entire world. In fact, the Delhi High Court has allowed foreign media to cover the court proceedings. But while the judicial system is moving swiftly and heavy-handedly to mete out justice in this case, it is unclear what these verdicts will mean for the future of women's rights in India in cases that garner less international attention. Meaningful change in India would require a sustained commitment to reforming the dysfunctional criminal justice system that allows this type of sexual violence to occur in the first place.