The recent case of a minor girl studying in class X who was kidnapped, gangraped and then poisoned by three people in Haryana’s Fatehabad district, shows the diabolic mindset of violators. The incident took place on June 5 and the girl later died during treatment. The dastardly incident came on the heels of assault on a 13-year-old minor by a group of four men near a temple in Haryana’s Yamunanagar recently.
The incident occurred when girl’s parents were away and the minor was sleeping in her house with her siblings. Four men barged into her house, kidnapped her and took the girl to an area near a temple and raped her. The men then smashed the girl’s head against the temple in a bid to kill her and destroy evidence. An FIR under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act has been filed. Sadly Haryana’s track record in the treatment of its women and girls has never been perfect and the spate of recent incidents confirms this.
Has the President’s approval of the Ordinance prescribing death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age proved to be a deterrent or awe-inspiring? It seems it has not been able to instill any fear because the nation is still confronted with a Kathua, Unnao or a Surat practically every day.
Ironically, instead of putting a full stop to the sexual assaults against the hapless girls, these have increased manifold. It is a shame on the civilised society and makes girls live in fear. In some states, girls can’t dare to venture out at night. Is death penalty an answer? Can a Presidential reference stop this type of crime? Are voluntary organisations doing their jobs efficiently? Where have all women’s bodies gone? Surely an efficient and smart policing system is a prerequisite but what is needed alongside is a transformation in mindsets. There is need to understand the mindset of the rapist-murderers of minors.
We keep hearing of big talks on the political front. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi who has been championing the cause of women rightly announced that her ministry will seek an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. She has advocated death as the maximum punishment for the rape of those below 12. In the past, there was some change in the legislative. That was in 2013 in the aftermath of a ghastly crime- the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in December 2012. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, set the death penalty for rape in the event of it causing the victim’s death.
There is still a question mark whether the death penalty be a deterrent against any sort of crime. Lawyers and child rights activists are divided over the ordinance to amend the criminal laws to enable capital punishment for those who rape minors below 12 years of age. While some say stricter punishment is needed as the law needs to be strengthened, others see it as a knee-jerk reaction to the recent Unnao and Kathua rape incidents, and say capital punishment in the name of child protection is not justified. Women’s rights activist and advocate Flavia Agnes said, “I am extremely angry. This is very disturbing. The government is on the back foot as they had not reacted to whatever happened. But, death penalty is not the answer; when will people understand this?”
Though the states like Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have suggested amending the law to prescribe the death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12, a clear dichotomy of views on the desirability of prescribing a death penalty remains. It is time the government at the centre and states discuss and debate this issue threadbare before to end this menace.