Nirbhaya or "Fearless," the victim of a gang rape in a Delhi bus, who became the focus of women around India and their fight against gender-based violence, is among ten extraordinary women being honoured Friday with the Secretary of State's International Women of Courage Award
First Lady Michelle Obama will join Secretary of State John Kerry as he presents the annual award recognizing women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.
Since the inception of this award in 2007, the State Department has honoured 67 women from 45 different countries.
Nirbhaya "Fearless," champion for justice (India) will be awarded posthumously.
Protestors demonstrate against brutal gangrape in Delhi in December. Photo: AFP
"Known to India and the world as "Nirbhaya" (Fearless), the courageous 23-year-old physiotherapy intern whose brutal gang rape on a moving bus in Delhi in December inspired widespread protests, has become the foundation of a popular movement to end violence against women in India," the citation noted.
"For millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family's continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women," it said.
"Nirbhaya" bravely recorded two police statements while in the hospital, repeatedly called for justice against the six attackers, and stated her will to survive to see justice done, the citation recalled.
"Like many Indians inspired by her struggle, she was born into a working class family that invested their hopes and life savings into her dream to pursue medicine. She had just graduated from a physiotherapy programme when her life was cut short.
"In the wake of her death just two weeks after the attack, India's active civil society began advocating heavily for legislation and social programmes to stem gender-based violence in all its forms and to ensure higher rape conviction rates and gender-sensitive law enforcement and justice systems," it said.
Thanks to these efforts, the Indian government has begun to take action to follow through on those demands, the citation noted.