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Four men who were convicted of the brutal rape and murder of a woman in India last year have been sentenced to death by hanging. The unusually harsh sentence — India has executed just three people in the last 17 years — was seen as a fitting punishment for the unusually brutal crime, which the judge in the case described as the "rarest of rare" cases that "shocked the collective conscience of society." The four men, were part of a group of six who kidnapped a 23-year-old woman and her male companion, raped her repeatedly over several hours, assaulted her with a metal rod causing massive internal injuries, and then leaving them both for dead on the side of the road. The woman died two weeks later. 

One other man who was also accused and arrested, died in prison of an apparent suicide, though his family alleges he was murdered. A sixth suspect was convicted separately as a juvenile last month.

The case brought international attention to the epidemic of violence against women in India, and lead to the passage of new, tougher anti-rape laws in India. Unfortunately, that hasn't seemed to curb the violence or the high number of sexual assaults in the country, but it has created more awareness of the problem and less tolerance for the perpetrators. 

India had not executed any prisoners for more than eight years, until last winter when two convicted terrorists were executed just weeks apart. The men can still appeal their verdicts and sentences to India's highest courts, a process that could take several more years.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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