The trial has begun of five men accused of raping and murdering a woman on a bus in Delhi two weeks ago. A sixth suspect will be tried in juvenile court.
Arguments rage about the punishment they will face if found guilty. Much of the establishment in India is calling for the death penalty.
Yet socialists and activists are arguing that the death penalty or chemical castration are not solutions to the wider problem of rape and women’s oppression in India.
Kavita Krishnan, the secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, has been involved in leading the mass protests about the rape.
She is concerned that the debate about punishment can detract from the campaign for women’s rights.
“We are trying to keep the concerns about women’s rights and their aspirations for freedom centre stage,” she said.
She has pointed out that the state has a “built-in legal bias against women, including exams of rape victims to establish whether they have had regular sex”.
International condemnation of such practices is hypocritical.
Such laws are a colonial legacy, she argued.
“We inherited this from the British.”