Expressing "deep sadness" at the death of 23-year-old Delhi gang-rape victim, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay asked the Indian government to strengthen the country's legal regime to get rid of the "terrible scourge".
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said rape is a "national problem" in India, affecting women of all classes and castes and requires national solutions.
Pillay expressed deep sadness over the death of Delhi rape victim and said she joined Indians in "all walks of life in condemning" the attack on the student, expressing confidence that India could emerge reformed in the wake of this "terrible crime."
"India has shown through its social reform movements of the past that it can rid itself of a scourge like rape," she said.
She called for an "urgent and rational debate" aimed at ending violence against women in India.
"What is needed is a new public consciousness and more effective and sensitive enforcement of the law in the interests of women," she said.
"Now is the time to strengthen India's legal regime against rape. I encourage the Indian Government to consult widely with civil society and to invite the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women to visit the country to assist in this process," she added.
"Let us hope that 2013 will be the year the tide is turned on violence against women in India and all women can walk free without fear," she said.
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