The Lok Sabha on Monday passed a bill seeking death penalty for convicted rapists of girls below 12 years of age and stricter punishments for convicted rapists of women aged below 16 years.
This bill is an amended version of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance that President Ram Nath Kovind had approved on April 21 after the collective public outrage over the alleged gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Rasana village in Kathua and the rape of a 15-year-old girl in Unnao allegedly committed by a BJP MLA.
The bill consists of minimum punishment of 10 years of imprisonment for rape. It holds 20 years of minimum punishment in jail for convicts of raping women aged below 16. Lastly, it gives 20 years of minimum rigorous imprisonment and maximum of a death penalty for rapists of girls of or below 12 years of age.
While Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai, who was in the Chair during the debate called for maximum publicity of the bill for it to act as a deterrent, but will it? Is death penalty the answer to end child rape in the country? The other noteworthy element of the bill is that it specifically mentions that if the rape only happens to a girl child will it result in such stringent punishment but if it is a boy, this will not be the recourse for it.
BOYS VULNERABLE TOO
“Both girl and boy child is vulnerable and sometimes male child getting raped is not even a space to talk about which is very much required. Child rights activists are consistently raising their voices to make child rights laws gender neutral but the government has not adequately taking these conversations into larger political debates,” Nandita Shah, Co-director of Akshara Centre told SheThePeople.TV. Akshara Centre is a society where all women can live a violent-free, dignified life with no discrimination.
The bill also provides the measure of speedy investigations and trial. The bill says that all these cases of child rape must carry out investigation within two months timeframe.
Social activist and Director of Centre for Social Research, Ranjana Kumari talked about the stigma boy child victim of rape faces. “No parents of boys pay attention to sexual violence against boys neither do they think that there is such harm for the boys as well. This is the general mindset in the society.”
She said that she supports the idea that this bill should include boys as well. “Only because of the social shame attached to masculinity being attacked do parents stay mum about it. Sexual abuse affects a child’s psychology in the long run, but parents refuse to accept it.”
DOES DEATH PENALTY DETER PREDATORS?
Talking about the death penalty and if it impacts as a deterrent, Kumari said, “If there was a serious political will to curb child rape in India then there is more to be done than just calling for death penalty. The Government has responded to it in a way that looks like a cosmetic surgery - that they are going to hang every rapist of a minor.”
Since 2004-2014, we have hanged only four people in rape cases and three are still waiting the gallows. For adult rape, there are several thousands of pending cases and at least a few thousands of child rapes. So, if they get convictions, then are we ready to hang thousands of people and is that a real solution?
“But since 2004-2014, we have hanged only four people in rape cases and three are still waiting the gallows. For adult rape, there are several thousands of pending cases and at least a few thousands of child rapes. So, if they get convictions, then are we ready to hang thousands of people and is that a real solution? The government has not been able to provide real safety to women and young children and on the contrary, cases have become much more gruesome and more in number,” she added.
SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND SLUM CHILDREN
However, Chandni Khan of 'Voice of Slum' who works with children of slums in and around Delhi through her NGO, supports the death penalty and says that we require some extreme punishment to scare the people who do such acts.
“These people who commit such crimes on children are usually repeat offenders as we have found in our instances of dealing with cases of child sexual abuse. The children living in slums and rural areas face sexual violence the most but don’t have much awareness around these issues. So these young girls and boys feel that this is a normal thing to happen with them. Apart from the bill, the government needs to promote and hold awareness programs in urban slums as well so that more children and their parents get to know about their schemes and laws, so they can at least benefit from them,” said Khan.
It is the duty of the parliament to research about an issue and bring about laws and initiatives that actually deals with them from the ground level. Currently, it looks more to appease the public than for real recourse.
Picture credit- Development news