MP passes bill prescribing death for raping girls under 12
In a significant development, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) assembly has unanimously passed a bill proposing death penalty for rapists of girls aged 12 years or below. The Public Safety Bill was approved last week. The president will now have to clear it for the bill to become a law. But will it help deter sexual crimes? Here's what the bill proposes.
The bill provides strengthened protection to girls, especially children. If someone rapes a woman on the pretext of marriage, it will be treated as a cognizable crime. Repeated stalking can lead to fines of Rs. 1L. For many of these provisions, the IPC would require amendments. The possibility of extending the bill to minor boys may be discussed later, said Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya.
MP has recorded an alarmingly high number of sexual crimes. In 2015, it registered 24,135 crimes against women. Of them, 4,391 were rapes, the highest among states. The same year, it saw 1,687 sexual offenses against children. In 2016, the figures increased: out of 26,604 crimes against women, 4,882 were rapes. Meanwhile, the conviction rate has remained at a mere 24-25% in recent years.
Just last month, state capital Bhopal was left shaken when a 19-year-old UPSC aspirant was kidnapped by four men and gang-raped for three hours on her way home from coaching classes. Afterwards, they attempted to kill her and fled, assuming her dead.
In India, the death penalty is prescribed for convicted terrorists under some anti-terror laws, murder, robbery with murder, abetting suicide of a child or unstable person, and abetting mutiny by an armed forces member. The SC has advocated the death penalty in cases involving child victims, political assassinations, dowry deaths and more. However, courts award death only in the "rarest of rare" cases.
Punishment is just one factor that contributes to controlling crimes, especially in sensitive issues like rape. MP Police have often been accused of engaging in victim-blaming; in the Bhopal gang-rape, cops had initially refused to even file an FIR. Conviction rates are anyway low. There's no provision for psychological rehabilitation of victims either. Efforts must be made to change mindsets in MP's feudal culture.