Death penalty in India rape cases a ‘ploy,’ say rights activists

DELHI: An Indian parliament ruling prescribing the death penalty for those convicted of raping a girl under the age of 12 has been criticized by rights activists, who call the legislation “hurried” and “not in the larger interests of the society.” The legislation, which also tightened the law dealing with sexual offenses, follows a nationwide outcry after the rape of an 8-year-old girl girl in the Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir in April this year.
The girl, a member of the nomadic Muslim Bakharwal community, was held captive in a Hindu temple, raped and killed. Her body was found in nearby jungle.
Kashmir police arrested eight Hindu men and claimed they carried out the attack to scare the nomadic community away from the area.
Several members of the ruling Hindu right-wing party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) came out in support of the accused and called for the case to be transferred to Delhi.
The attack on the girl caused outrage across India.
Under legislation passed on Monday the time limit for investigation and trial in rape cases is two months. Any appeal has to be completed within six months.
“The drastic sentencing introduced in this legislation is a hurried decision. It will harm children, not benefit them,” said Anant Kumar Asthana, a child rights activist and lawyer.
“Putting the death penalty as a provision for punishment goes against the interest of the victims because most offenders are known to either the child or the family, and the death penalty act as a deterrent in filing a case.”
But the junior interior minister, Kiren Rijiju, defended the bill, saying that “it will provide safety to young girls.”
Speaking in the parliament, the minister said that “we have introduced changes in the Indian penal code, criminal court procedure and Evidence Act (to prevent) atrocities against children”.
Suhas Chakma, director of the Asian Center for Human Rights, said that the death penalty was not a deterrent against crime.
“In a country where 30 million cases are pending in courts, each time you make a law, you only burden the judiciary with more special courts. Then, after a while, special courts collapse under the burden of the huge number of cases,” Chakma said.
Political activist Kavita Krishnan, leader of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said the legislation is “a red herring to save the government, which is in the dock because leaders of the ruling party took part in a rally in support of the Kathua rape accused.”
“In the past few weeks, cases of abuse of young girls in government-run shelter homes have cropped up. The death penalty is a ploy to divert the attention of the people,” she said.

About Aayush Darshit

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