India – Cabinet approves death penalty for aggravated sexual assault of children

Cabinet okays death penalty for aggravated sexual assault of children

To curb child pornography, the amendment levies heavy fine for not deleting, destroying child pornographic material. Not reporting child pornography will also invite a hefty fine, the minister said.

INDIA Updated: Dec 28, 2018 23:22 IST

Anisha Dutta
Anisha Dutta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ravi Shankar prasad,Cabinet briefing,Modi govt
The Union Cabinet on Friday approved death penalty for aggravated sexual abuse of children as part of amendments to make the law governing crimes against children more stringent(Reuters/Representative Image)

Child sexual assault will be punishable with death sentence under amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, approved by the Union cabinet on Friday at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The amendments seek to make the law gender-neutral and sharpen its deterrent edge.

The death penalty will apply to cases of aggravated penetrative sexual assault on children below 12 years of age. Section 4 of the POCSO Act, which deals with punishment for penetrative sexual assault, now prescribes a sentence that’s not less than seven years in jail and may be extended to life imprisonment as the maximum punishment. The proposed amendments increase minimum imprisonment to 10 years which may extend to imprisonment for life.

Section 6 of the Act has been amended to read: “Whoever commits aggravated penetrative sexual assault shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 20 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life which shall mean imprisonment for the remainder of that person’s natural life and shall also be liable to fine or with death”.

The death penalty will apply to cases of aggravated sexual assault, which refers to rape and gang rape.

“In the wake of gruesome and heart wrenching incidences, there has been a growing demand from the society to arrest the disturbing trend (of child sexual assault) by introducing stringent punishment including death penalty for the rape cases, “the ministry of women and child development said in a proposal to the cabinet, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times.

The cabinet approved amendments in sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 14, 15 and 42 of the POCSO Act. “The modification is made to address the need for stringent measures required to deter the rising trend of child sex abuse in the country,” the cabinet said in a statement.

This is an initiative to strengthen the entire POCSO architecture and also enhance it to ensure that medicines or hormones are not be abused to destroy the childhood of innocents, said Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who briefed reporters on the Cabinet decisions.

The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and to safeguard their interests and well-being. The Act defined a child as any person below eighteen years of age. Certain sections of the Act, however, were not gender-neutral and applied only to female victims. The amendments seek to correct that.

“Government has always strived to seek justice for all the survivors of child sexual abuse, the most vulnerable section of society. I am extremely grateful to Modi and the cabinet for this momentous step in protecting children against abuse and harassment,” minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi said.

In cases of aggravated sexual assault, under section 5, the government also added a clause to include children sexually exploited in the course of communal or sectarian violence, or during a situation of natural calamity.

“Immediately after the earthquake in 2015, Nepal Government suspended International adoption, banned children from travelling without parents or guardians, and suspended the registration of new orphanages, yet in the following three months 513 children and women at the risk of being trafficked were intercepted. There were also reports of rape of young girls including a Kedarnath deluge survivor, in the media. Therefore, apart from the sectarian violence, natural calamity has been included,” the WCD ministry noted in its proposal.

The cabinet also approved an amendment to address child pornography. It proposed a fine for not destroying/or deleting/ or reporting pornographic material involving a child. The person can be penalized with a jail term or fine or both for transmitting/propagating/administrating such material in any manner except for the purpose of reporting it to the authorities.

Not everyone is convinced that the death sentence will deter sexual crimes against children, and there is concern that it may deter the reporting of such offences .

“To protect children, we need better implementation of existing laws, budgetary provision and strategic moves to create awareness among communities and children on the issues of child protection,” said Priti Mahara, director of policy, research and advocacy, Child Rights and You, a non-government organisation.

“We need robust victim and witness protection system, support system for victim and families during and after the trials. 94.6% of the cases of sexual offence perpetrators are known to the victims, and therefore – because of the familiarity of the child with the offender – the bigger worry is that capital punishment may serve to deter the reporting of cases. It may even lead to destruction of evidence by murdering the victim,” Mahara added. – Hindustan Times, 28/12/2018

India – Death Penalty for Rape of Girl below 12 years approved by President

Law Allowing Death Penalty For Rape Of Children Cleared By President

The Home Ministry drafted Criminal Law (Amendment) Act stipulates stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years.

INDIA – By Executive Order, Not Parliament, India introduces death penalty for rape of girls below 12…

India has  sadly just introduced the death penalty for rape of a minor. This was not done after Parliament debates and approves a law – but rather by way of an Executive Order, which was approved by Cabinet on Saturday(21/4/2018), and subsequently by the President…This is also Election year, and the new ordinance/order also is gender biased…

 

With regard to rape or gang rape of a girl below the age of 12, the cabinet said the accused would be sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, imprisonment for life or death.

Death penalty for rape of minors: President approves ordinance

TNN | Apr 23, 2018, 04:05 IST

 NEW DELHI: President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday approved the ordinance to strengthen the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

In the wake of an increase in incidents of rape of minors, the cabinet had on Saturday approved a number of measures to amend the POCSO Act.The ordinance seeks death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age and stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape particularly of girls below 16 years.
The minimum punishment in case of rape of women has been increased from rigorous imprisonment of 7 to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 to 20 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

The punishment for gang rape of a girl under 16 years will be imprisonment for the rest of the life of the convict.With regard to rape or gang rape of a girl below the age of 12, the cabinet said the accused would be sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment, imprisonment for life or death.The cabinet also decided to put in place several measures for speedy probe and trial of rape cases. It has also provided for a six month time limit for disposal of appeals in rape cases.- Times of India, 23/4/2018

India’s death penalty for rapists of young girls could push them to kill

With the majority of rapes committed by someone known to the victim, the new law could drive offenders to murder to avoid detection

A man walks past a graffiti depicting a message in protest against rape, in Jammu, on 22 April
A man walks past graffiti protesting against rape, in Jammu. Reporting the crime in India’s patriarchal family structure is often fraught with victim shaming and further alienation. Photograph: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters

On Saturday India’s government approved the death penalty for convicted rapists of girls under the age of 12, amid a groundswell of public outrage following the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir state.

The shocking case involved a girl from the Bakarwal nomadic tribe, who was out grazing her horses when she was abducted, drugged and murdered after a week of torture and repeated rape. It led to a nationwide outcry for swifter justice.

However, the hastily issued executive order is facing criticism from activists and politicians, who say the death penalty, usually meted out for severe crimes in India, will not be a deterrent to child rapists without an overhaul of the criminal justice system.

“I am afraid this [executive order] has very little credibility because what is required is certainty of punishment,” the leader of Communist Party of India (Marxist), Brinda Karat, told reporters.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data from 2016, in 94.6% of cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim – usually a brother, father or someone from the family’s social circle. Reporting rape in India’s patriarchal family structure is often fraught with victim shaming and further alienation.

Child rights activists fear the introduction of the death penalty will make families more likely to cover up sexual crimes, and that rapists might kill their victims to avoid detection.

Critics are also concerned that the order, which was approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet on Saturday, makes no mention of boys. In a country where male children often grow up in an atmosphere that discourages them from showing vulnerability, experts say such a discriminatory legal provision will fail boys who have been sexually assaulted.

Unlike the current Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (Pocso) 2012, which is gender-neutral and defines any person under 18 as a child, the new ordinance will stop boys who have been sexually abused from seeking the same justice accorded to a girl of their age, says gay rights activist Harish Iyer.

“I principally stand against the death penalty. This discriminatory legislation implies what boys are taught growing up – that they have to be the protector and not the protected. Children are vulnerable to sexual assault, irrespective of gender,” Iyer said.

A nationwide survey of crimes against children conducted by the ministry of women and child development in 2007 found that half of India’s children had been sexually abused.

Iyer said the new executive order was a shortcut for an overhaul of a criminal justice system that often discriminates against the poor. “This is sexism of a different nature, it favours one gender. What about protection of intersex children? Unless the crime is female foeticide, which is specifically gender-oriented, this is a shortcut for real measures.”

A man beats an effigy of one of the rapists at a protest against three rapes of girls, in Ahmedabad, India.
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A man beats an effigy of one of the rapists at a protest against three rapes of girls, in Ahmedabad, India. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

He said the government should prioritise fast-track courts, child-friendly police stations, and a national registry of sex offenders. The new law proposes stricter punishment for convicted rapists of children under 16 years of age. Its definition of the victims and proposed age limit has triggered a debate about categorising victims of the same crime.

“What’s the explanation for death penalty for ‘gang rape of children below 12 years’? The state is a man. Why else would the reproductive age of a girl be the determining factor for the kind of punishment meted out to the rapists?” journalist Kota Neelima wrote in a Facebook post.

In 2016 India recorded an alarmingly low conviction rate (18.9%) for crimes against women. In that year, of all the child rape cases that came before the courts under the Pocso, less than 3% ended in convictions.

An issue of such a grave nature should have had a public discourse with participation from civil society stakeholders. By its nature, an executive order can be announced by the president of India on recommendation from the federal cabinet and does not require consultation.

After the gang rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012, India introduced tougher rape laws and launched fast-track courts, but the measures have not deterred violent sexual crimes.

In addition, homelessness and poverty increase the vulnerability of children to sexual predators as parents have to leave them on their own to go to work, making them easy targets.

In an election year, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to be seen as proactive in taking strong steps to make India safer for women. However, it is implementation, the real challenge in India, that will determine its true intention.- The Guardian, 24/4/2018