New Delhi: Global rights groups, the Amnesty International and the CRY have termed the Union Cabinet’s decision to introduce death penalty for rape of children below the age of 12 years a “knee-jerk reaction” and said it could possibly be a threat to the judicial process.
They said the government must ensure implementation of existing laws to protect children from sexual abuse instead of introducing the death penalty.
The government’s decision to introduce death penalty through an ordinance is a knee-jerk reaction that diverts attention from the poor implementation of laws on rape and child protection.
“Studies have shown that most perpetrators are ‘known’ to child victims introducing the death penalty in such circumstances will only silence and further endanger children. Both the Justice Verma Committee and India’s Law Commission have questioned the deterrent value of death penalty in preventing crimes, Asmita Basu, Programmes Director, Amnesty International India, said in a statement.
She said the government must instead allocate “adequate resources for the effective implementation of existing laws, improve conviction rates and ensure that justice is done in all cases of child abuse.”
“The President must not approve this regressive ordinance, as it does little to promote the best interests of children,” she said.
The ordinance comes in response to nationwide protests against the alleged gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua region.
The ordinance will amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes to the punishment of death.
Another NGO, the Child Rights and You (CRY) said violence against children needs to be curbed but this ordinance comes as a “knee-jerk” reaction and may pose a threat to the judicial process.
It is beyond debate that state had to act in order to curb violence against children, however, this ordinance does come as a knee-jerk reaction and may pose a threat to the judicial process.
“As in 95 per cent of such cases children are assaulted by the people they know (Data source: NCRB 2014), there is a high probability of under reporting of sexual offences against children and that of justice never been able to penetrate thick walls of homes and neighbourhoods,” said Komal Ganotra, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the CRY.
They urged the government to address the bigger challenge on hand in carrying out investments in preventive mechanisms to make children safe at all the spaces homes, schools, neighbourhood, parks, roads.
The National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India Report, 2016, highlighted that only 28.2 per cent of the child sexual abuse cases brought to trial have resulted in convictions.
Despite the low conviction rates, recently four Indian states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh, have introduced the death penalty for the rape of girls below the age of 12 years.