Urging chief ministers from across India to ensure the safety and security of women in various states, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while referring to the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in the national capital on Thursday, said that the government has decided to review the present laws and examine the levels of punishments in cases of aggravated sexual assault.
Addressing a meeting of the National Development Council, Dr Singh said the issue of safety and security of women was of the highest priority.
"Gender inequality is another aspect which deserves special attention. Women and girls represent half the population and our society has not been fair to this half. Their socio-economic status is improving, but gaps persist. The emergence of women in public spaces, which is an absolutely essential part of social emancipation, is accompanied by growing threats to their safety and security," said Dr. Singh.
"I have in mind the brutal attack on a young woman only a few days ago in the capital and other such reprehensible incidents. We must reflect on this problem, which occurs in all states and regions of the country, and which requires greater attention by both the Centre and the states," he added.
Dr Singh further said the culprits in the gang-rape case have been apprehended, and added that the law will deal with them expeditiously.
"The government has decided to review the present laws and examine the levels of punishments in cases of aggravated sexual assault. A committee of eminent jurists, headed by the former chief justice of India Justice J S Verma, has been constituted for this purpose. Let me state categorically that the issue of safety and security of women is of the highest concern to our government. A commission of inquiry is being set up to look into precisely these issues in the capital," said Dr Singh.
"There can be no meaningful development without the active participation of half the population and this participation simply cannot take place if their security and safety is not assured. I urge all chief ministers to pay special attention to this critical area in their states," he added.
The gang-rape victim, who was battling for life for the past 10 days at the Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi, was on Wednesday night flown to Singapore in an air ambulance for specialised treatment in a premier hospital.