Washington: Nirbhaya, the "Fearless" victim of a gang rape in a Delhi bus, who became the focus of women around India and their fight against gender-based violence, was honoured Friday with a posthumous US "woman of courage" award.
US first lady Michelle Obama joined secretary of state John Kerry as he presented nine women the annual award recognizing women around the globe who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women's rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk.
At the State Department presentation ceremony on International Women's Day, Kerry praised the determination and courage of "a woman known simply as Nirbhaya - brave heart, fearless."
The audience stood up and observed a moment of silence after he read out the citation.
"Nirbhaya boarded a bus in Delhi last December where she was brutally gang raped, tossed away, left to die. But she kept fighting," Kerry said. "As Nirbhaya fought for her life, she fought for justice and gave detailed accounts of her attack used to arrest her rapists."
"Nirbhaya's fight survives her. With great sadness, we honour Nirbhaya as a woman of exceptional courage," Kerry said. "Nirbhaya's bravery inspired millions with simple message: No more looking the other way when gender-based violence happens."
Nirbhaya "Fearless," champion for justice (India) "has become the foundation of a popular movement to end violence against women in India," the State Department said.
"For millions of Indian women, her personal ordeal, perseverance to fight for justice, and her family's continued bravery is helping to lift the stigma and vulnerability that drive violence against women," it said.
The awardees for 2013 besides Nirbhaya are Malalai Bahaduri, first sergeant, Afghan National Interdiction Unit (Afghanistan); Julieta Castellanos, rector, National Autonomous University of Honduras (Honduras); Josephine Obiajulu Odumakin, president, Campaign for Democracy (Nigeria); Elena Milashina, journalist, human rights activist (Russia); Fartuun Adan, executive director, Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre (Somalia); Tsering Woeser (Wei Se), Tibetan author, poet, blogger (China); Razan Zeitunah, human rights lawyer and founder, Local Coordination Committees (Syria) and
Ta Phong Tan, blogger (Vietnam).