The horrific gang-rape of a young paramedical student in New Delhi on December 16, 2012 overshadowed India’s achievements at the three-day Women Deliver conference that concluded here on Thursday.

The episode figured in discussions held over three days even as the Indian delegates attempted to highlight the successes made in improving the reproductive and child health.

On Wednesday morning, when philanthropist Melinda Gates acknowledged the achievements of the Bihar government in providing reproductive health services to women through the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), a presidential session on “Ending Violence Against Women” in the afternoon saw women expressing shock over the incident. Columnist Bachchi Karkaria said the incident was just a tipping point. She spoke of how committees were formed to review laws and punishment for rapists made more stringent.

One incident of outrage would not change everything, Ms. Karkaria said as she referred to the even more shocking case of a five-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted by two men in the capital.

Even on the very first day, a panel discussion by the Media Forum comprising reporters and editors which deliberated upon the challenges faced when covering women’s health and empowerment issues, specifically, sought insights into the media’s coverage of the issue of rape in India. India’s success stories under the NRHM also got virtually drowned in the discourse over gang-rape.

The presence of Rajya Sabha chairperson P.J. Kurien, who is facing a rape charge, gave more reason to the participants to talk about the way India dealt with women’s rights and issues, particularly rape. So much so that a press conference by the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD) was called off at the last moment, though without citing a reason.

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