On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh state assembly passed a bill that awards death penalty for those guilty of raping girls aged twelve and under. The bill was passed unanimously in the assembly by both the ruling and opposition members of the legislative assembly. With this, the state of Madhya Pradesh becomes the first state in India to hand over death sentences to perpetrators who rape girls under twelve.
This bill is a move in an attempt to curb the rising cases of sexual assault on women in Madhya Pradesh.
As per NCRB’s 2016 Crime in India report, of the 2479 reported cases of rape of girls below eighteen years of age in the state, the survivors in 192 cases were below twelve years of age.
The capital punishment might not appeal to many people, but it is indeed justified in sexual crimes committed against minors. Such crimes are always premeditated and committed in cold blood. Then why should we spend the tax payer’s money to sustain such sociopaths for years? Unless we have a concrete evidence that jail time reforms these criminals, there is no valid argument to oppose death sentence.
We applaud this bold move by the state assembly of Madhya Pradesh. Especially the unanimity and ease with which the assembly passed this bill. But we also want to point out at a flaw in it. The bill specifically addresses cases where the survivors are girls under twelve years of age. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if it was effective for every child below twelve years?
This is yet another example of how both society and authorities marginalise male survivors of sexual assault. Rape, or any sort of sexual violation is equally traumatic for both genders.
Parents and family members seldom report such cases to the authorities, due to the social stigma attached to manhood. As a result, there is no clear data available on sexual assaults against underage boys. Hence, apart from mental and physical damage, male survivors also have to suffer gender discrimination, when it comes to giving justice to rape survivors.
We need to change the mentality and approach of our peers and the society towards all the survivors of rape. It is of utmost importance that authorities acknowledge that children of both genders are equally vulnerable to sexual assault by predators. By including male survivors below the age of twelve in the bill, the state will set a great social and legislative example in the country. This will stimulate people to discuss the issue. It will motivate parents to come forward and report sexual crimes against boys. We need to make sure that predators who rape children get the most severe punishment possible for any crime. Irrespective of the victim’s gender.
Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.