NEW DELHI – Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has called for “immediate” action to protect women in India following the fatal gang-rape of a student that horrified the country.
The vicious attack by a group of drunken men on a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi two months ago, in which she was raped and assaulted with an iron bar sparked outrage in India.
The appeal by the star of dozens of movies comes as Indian lawmakers are due to take up new measures to significantly tighten laws on sexual assault against women.
The 39-year-old actress — one of India’s best-known faces at home and abroad — voiced anger over the situation of women in the country.
“There should be definite laws for offenders. They should be punished immediately. That is when we will see the change in society,” said Rai Bachchan, who spoke Wednesday in New Delhi where she attended an awards ceremony.
Though gang-rapes and sexual harassment are commonplace in India, the case of the student who died of massive internal injures touched a nerve, leading to an outpouring of criticism about treatment of women in Indian society.
“I don’t feel fear. Rather there is a lot of anger and I don’t hesitate to say this. Many of us are privileged to have a lot of assurance about our safety but most of the women in our country do not have that,” Rai Bachchan said.
Five suspects in the rape case are being tried in a fast-track court on charges of murder, gang-rape and kidnapping and a sixth faces trial in juvenile court.
“The incident has brought about a lot of attention and awareness but the change needs to come immediately,” said Rai Bachchan, a regular on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2007, she wed fellow movie star Abhishek Bachchan, son of legendary Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan, and they have a 1-year-old daughter.