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Thousands of people across India have taken to the streets to protest against sexual violence and call for stricter laws rape laws over the past week — and one woman is taking her protest to the next level.

Swati Maliwal, the head of Delhi's Commission for Women, has been on a hunger strike since April 13, refusing to eat until India’s rape laws are amended, CNN reported.

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The recent protests were sparked by two shocking rape cases — the gang rape and murder of a 8-year-old Asifa Bano in a temple in Kashmir and the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh.

Maliwal began her indefinite hunger strike the day after she addressed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an open letter in which she called for harsher punishments for rapists. Although India amended its rape laws in 2013, the country continues to grapple with widespread sexual violence.

"We should have a system in this country where anyone who rapes a young girl should be hanged within six months," she wrote.

The day after Maliwal’s letter was published, Modi broke his silence on the controversial cases. 

Read more: 12 Photos That Show How People Won’t Stop Protesting India Rapes Until Justice Is Served

“I want to assure the country that no culprit will be spared, complete justice will be done. Our daughters will definitely get justice,” he said at an event on April 13, the same day Maliwal’s strike started.

Despite high temperatures, Maliwal has stationed herself on an outdoor stage in front of the Raj Ghat memorial, dedicated to Mahatma Gandi, where hundreds of supporters have rallied around her and joined her call, according to CNN.

According to a senior police official, officers advised Maliwal to end her strike and to seek medical attention, but she refused.

On the fourth day of her hunger strike, Shatrughan Sinha, a member of parliament, visited Maliwal at the site of her strike and voiced his support, NDTV reported.

Read more: Indian Rape Survivors Are Still Subjected to Illegal ‘Two-Finger Tests’

"I have come here not as a politician but as an aware citizen of the country, an aware artist and as a father of a daughter,” he said. “In such heinous crimes time bound completion of trial is necessary and toughest punishment, death penalty should be given to the guilty.”

Global Citizen campaigns against gender discriminatory policies and legislation. You can take action here to urge governments to #LeveltheLaw by strengthening their sexual violence and rape laws.


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This Woman Is on Hunger Strike Until India Changes Its Rape Laws

By Daniele Selby