A New Delhi court issued a death warrant Tuesday for four men convicted in the 2012 gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus that brought global attention to the country’s sexual violence epidemic.
The court scheduled the hangings for Jan. 22, local news outlets reported. The warrant has been anticipated since India's Supreme Court rejected one of the men's final review pleas last month.
The female rape victim -- a 23-year-old physiotherapy student whom Indian media dubbed "Nirbhaya," or "Fearless," because Indian law prohibits victims from being identified -- was heading home with a male friend from a movie theater when six men lured them onto a bus.
With no one else in sight, they beat the man with a metal bar, raped the woman and used the bar to inflict massive internal injuries to her. The pair were dumped naked on the side of the road, and the woman died two weeks later.
The assailants were tried relatively quickly in a country where sexual assault cases often languish for years. Four defendants were sentenced to death. Another hanged himself in prison before his trial began, though his family insists he was killed. The sixth assailant was a minor at the time of the December 2012 attack and was sentenced to three years in a reform home.
Swati Maliwal, the chair of the Delhi Commission for Women, applauded the court's announcement on Tuesday.
"I salute her mother who has fought for so long," she tweeted. "It is a victory for all the fearless people of this country. This is the time to punish every rapist in the country so that a strong message is sent out."
The scheduled executions come amid a revived debate over sexual violence in India after several cases have made headlines in recent months. In December, a woman in Uttar Pradesh was doused with gasoline and set on fire by five men -- including two who were out on bail after she had accused them of gang rape -- on her way to attend a court hearing in her case. Shortly after, she died at a hospital in New Delhi.
In November 2019, the burned body of a 27-year-old veterinarian was found near the city of Hyderabad in southern India. Police later fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing the woman after investigators took them to the crime scene.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.