Human rights organisation Amnesty International India on Saturday termed a “knee-jerk reaction” the decision to introduce death penalty for those convicted of raping a child below the age of 12, calling on the government to improve implementation of existing laws to protect children from sexual abuse. “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,” said Amnesty International India Programme Director Asmita Basu.
“Studies have shown that most perpetrators are ‘known’ to child victims and 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.
“Instead, the government must 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 (Ram Nath Kovind) must not approve this regressive ordinance, as it does little to promote the best interests of children,” she added.
The Union Cabinet on Saturday approved an ordinance that provides for death penalty to those convicted of raping a child below the age of 12 and life term for raping a girl below age of 16.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.
According to media reports, 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.
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.