New Delhi (CNN) -- The tragic case of the 23-year old woman who was brutally attacked, raped and left for dead by six men in New Delhi on December 16 has highlighted the unacceptable reality millions of women in India are facing. Violence against women is endemic -- more than 220,000 cases of violent crimes against women were reported in 2011 according to official statistics from the Indian government, with the actual number likely to be much higher.
If there has been a silver lining to this horrendous case, it has been the enormous outcry from Indian society. What started as student-led protests in New Delhi has grown to encompass Indians from all walks of life and from the whole political spectrum. Tens of thousands have taken to the streets with the clear message that something has to change, and that women should no longer have to live in fear.
But amid the many reasonable and constructive calls on the authorities to address the situation, there is unfortunately a growing chorus of voices calling for the six alleged perpetrators to be executed, or even for mandatory death sentence in cases of sexual violence.
Five of the six suspects were formally charged in New Delhi on Thursday, with the authorities investigating whether the sixth suspect is under 18 and a juvenile. The five are expected to be charged with several offences including murder, which is punishable by death under Indian law.
The anger felt towards the suspects is completely understandable, as is the desire to impose stricter laws around sexual violence to ensure that what happened in Delhi in December never happens again. But imposing the death penalty would just perpetuate the cycle of violence.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, regardless of the circumstances or the nature of the crime. It is the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment, and a violation of a fundamental human right -- the right to life.
There is no evidence to suggest that the threat of execution works as a special deterrent. This is reflected in a clear global trend moving towards the abolition of the death penalty. Today, 140 countries in the world have abolished executions in law or practice.