Those convicted of raping girls under the age of 12 face the death penalty in India, after regional lawmakers passed a new law this week.
The punishment would also include those convicted of gang rape.
Lawmakers in Madhya Pradesh, a state in the center of the country, voted unimously for a change in the local law on Dec 4, which must now await the approval of the president.
They said that the bill throws down the gauntlet to other lawmakers in the country, which has in recent years seen a number of high-profile rape cases and accompanying protests at a culture, which they say allows it.
“I know that the bill would trigger a debate in the nation,” said Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, during the discussion in the local parliament.
“Nonetheless, I am firm that those who rape minor girls are not humans but ‘pishach’ [devils] and they have no right to live,” he said according to the United News of India.
There are people in society who can be set right only by severe punishments. [The bill] will deal with them. We will also raise awareness in society against such crimes.”
But Chouhan does point out that 98 percent of child rapes are perpetrated by either relatives or acquaintances.
The death penalty in India is carried out by hanging. But despite hundreds of people on death row, there have been only 5 executions in the last 22 years.
The law allows for the death penalty for murder, drug trafficking, and unusually, the abetting the suicide of a minor. In the region of Gujarat, selling or manufacturing poisonous alcohol is also punishable by death, in the event of someone being killed by the poison.
During the debate some lawmakers said that they were worried that if the death penalty is introduced, some rapists may go on to murder their victims to try to eliminate evidence as the child’s testimony will stand in court.
The new law would raise the minimum sentence of pedophile rapists to 14 years or life imprisonment until death for the rape of girls aged 12.
Those involved in the gang rape of underage girls face an even harsher minimum term—20 years—as well as the death penalty.
Other crimes punishable by death in India include murder, abetting the suicide of a minor, drug trafficking, and in Gujarat only, the manufacture and sale of poisoned alcohol, which results in death.
Some human rights campaigners have said that the fear of execution will not discourage rape.
Madhya Pradesh, the fifth most populous state in India, has the highest number of rape cases among Indian states.
According to the latest National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) data, 4,882 rape cases were reported in the state in 2016.
Considering sharing this article. Click below!