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Bollywood star and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has called for "immediate" action to protect women in India following the fatal gang-rape of a student that horrified the country.
The vicious attack by a group of drunken men on a 23-year-old medical student in New Delhi two months ago in which she was raped and assaulted with an iron bar sparked outrage in India.
The appeal by the star of dozens of movies comes as Indian lawmakers are due to take up new measures to significantly tighten laws on sexual assault against women.
The 39-year-old actress -- one of India's best-known faces at home and abroad -- voiced anger over the situation of women in the country.
"There should be definite laws for offenders. They should be punished immediately. That is when we will see the change in society," said Rai Bachchan, who spoke Wednesday in New Delhi where she attended an awards ceremony.
Though gang-rapes and sexual harassment are commonplace in India, the case of the student who died of massive internal injures touched a nerve, leading to an outpouring of criticism about treatment of women in Indian society.
"I don't feel fear. Rather there is a lot of anger and I don't hesitate to say this. Many of us are privileged to have a lot of assurance about our safety but most of the women in our country do not have that," Rai Bachchan said.
Five suspects in the rape case are being tried in a fast-track court on charges of murder, gang-rape and kidnapping and a sixth faces trial in juvenile court.
"The incident has brought about a lot of attention and awareness but the change needs to come immediately," said Rai Bachchan, a regular on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2007, she wed fellow movie star Abhishek Bachchan, son of legendary Bollywood veteran Amitabh Bachchan, and they have a one-year-old daughter.
3 sisters aged between 6 &11 raped, murdered
Three sisters aged between six and 11 were raped and murdered before their bodies were dumped down a village well in rural western India, police said on Wednesday.
The bodies of the three schoolgirls were found last week, two days after they went missing on February 14 from their home in the Bhandara district of Maharashtra state, police superintendent Aarti Singh told AFP.
"The bodies of the three young girls were found in a well, with their schoolbags and footwear," Singh told AFP by phone from Nagpur, adding they were aged six, nine and 11.
"The post-mortem has confirmed that the girls were raped and then murdered."
No arrests have been made but Singh said four people had been detained for questioning and investigations were still under way.
Family members said the girls had gone out to look for their mother who was out of the house and no one heard from them again.
The incident led to protests by villagers, Singh said, echoing angry rallies in the capital New Delhi after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in December.
That incident sparked a nationwide debate about the treatment of women and girls and their safety in India.
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