Kathua-rape: Center mulls death-penalty for rapists of minors under 12
The Center is mulling the death penalty for rape of minors aged under 12, Women and Child Development (WCD) Maneka Gandhi said. Currently, the maximum punishment is life imprisonment. Since the parliament isn't in session, the government might bring an ordinance, WCD Secretary Rakesh Srivastava said. The recent Kathua case has shaken the nation, where an eight-year-old was kidnapped, drugged, raped repeatedly and murdered.
"I and the ministry intend to bring an amendment to the POCSO Act asking for death penalty for rape on children below 12 years," Gandhi said. For this, the ministry would send a proposal seeking an amendment to the law ministry. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act deals with sexual crimes against those below 18.
Recent reports have brought to light how a child was brutally raped by several men for days and murdered. The rapists wanted to instill fear and drive out the nomadic Bakarwal community, who they believe indulge in cow slaughter and drug trafficking.
Currently, three states have the death penalty for rapists of minors below 12; the latest was Haryana, who approved it last month after MP and Rajasthan. Both MP and Haryana also upped the punishment for stalking. A look at NCRB data will show why it was a much-needed move: in 2016, the latest stats available, there were an alarming 93,344 crimes against children.
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. Prevalence of victim-blaming and a subsequent under-reporting of such crimes due to embarrassment often hamper justice. Conviction rates aren't high either. There's inadequate provision for psychological rehabilitation of victims. Change in mindsets is essential to improve the situation.