New Delhi: The gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinary doctor in Hyderabad on the intervening night of 27-28 November took centre stage on Monday in the Parliament with all political parties unanimously demanding stringent measures to ensure women’s safety.

The issue was taken up in both Houses and lawmakers cutting across political lines expressed outrage on the growing number of crimes against women in India.

“All of us have to come together and find the answers. Only making laws will not help. We see what happens even after punishment is meted out...incidents are happening in different parts of the country and are not attributed to one regime or the other. It is a societal weakness," vice president and Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu said at the end of the discussion in the Upper House. The country should revisit mercy for juvenile offenders, he added.

“We condemn such incidents in one voice," Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla said.

“We are ready for a discussion in the House so that stringent provisions in law can be explored to give punishment to those involved in such ghastly incidents," said defence minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke on behalf of the central government.

Crimes against women have been a key issue in recent years. As many as 32,559 rapes were reported in India in 2017, of which the accused were known to the victims in 93.1% of the cases, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data. In 16,591 cases the accused were family friends, employers or neighbours, while in 10,553 cases the accused were friends, live-in partners or separated husbands of the victims, the data shows.

Crimes against women had caught the national attention after the gang rape and brutalization of a physiotherapy intern in Delhi in December 2012. A committee headed by former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma was set up, and several of its recommendations were turned into law for providing stringent punishment in cases of sexual harassment and rape.

The discussion on Monday saw leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, demanding the strictest punishment for offenders of such cases without discriminating on the basis of caste or religion. Loksabha MP Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress urged the Centre to frame laws immediately to make rape punishable by death. Supriya Sule, the Nationalist Congress Party MP said there should be “zero tolerance".

“We have to come together for a time bound improvement in the legal and justice system by making a common resolve. Only in a sensitized society can such issues be tackled. The security of women should be our key priority," senior BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav said in the Rajya Sabha.

The gang rape and murder of the 27-year-old in Hyderabad has also raised questions about the efficacy of the state police force which, claims to be one step ahead in terms of using technology to tackle and pre-empt crime.

One such initiative is the use of facial recognition techniques, wherein patrolling police personnel have begun stopping suspects to scan the police department’s database. This has, however, led to complaints from many citizens about the police randomly stopping them without any explanation. Four people were arrested in the gruesome incident, a sub-inspector and two head constables were suspended after a detailed inquiry last week.

PTI contributed to this story.

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