Ordinance passed to award death penalty for child rape

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The most common argument against death penalty in cases of child rape is that the existing law is stringent enough, and increasing the quantum of punishment is not going to make the situation any better.

Currently, the maximum punishment for sexual assault of minors under the law is life imprisonment while the minimum sentence is seven years in prison.

Amidst a spike in crimes against children, the union cabinet today approved an ordinance to award death penalty for those convicted of raping children below the age of 12 years.

But others criticized the ordinance, arguing that the possibility of a death sentence will not act as a deterrent and that India needs to improve its prosecution and conviction rate for rape and child sexual abuse cases.

In Kathua of Jammu and in Uttar Pradesh's Eta, the incidents of rape with minor girls have shaken the country, after which the government has decided to make strict provision for rape of minor girls.

The ordinance would be now sent to the President for his approval.

More recently, a sexual attack on an 11-year-old girl was reported in Mr Modi's home state of Gujarat.

According to data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016, incidents of rape of children increased by over 82 per cent compared to 2015.

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The latest outpouring of national revulsion came after details emerged of the gang rape of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in Kathua, a Hindu-dominated area in Indian-administered Kashmir.

On Saturday, police in central Madhya Pradesh state arrested a man over the rape and murder of a four-month-old girl.

 A time limit of 6 months has also been provided for disposal of appeals in rape cases. It has also been provided in the amendment that the court has to give a notice of 15 days to the public prosecutors and the representatives of the victim before deciding bail applications in cases of rape of a girl below 16 years of age.

The Modi government has simultaneously announced that for speedy trial of rape cases new fast track courts would be set up in consultation with States/Union territories and high courts. "If it is a family member, a person known to the family of the victim, which is true in most cases in India, will this work?"

Dedicated manpower will be provided for investigation of rape cases in a time bound manner.

Law ministry officials said an ordinance is the best way to deal with the issue now as an amendment bill will have to wait till July when the Monsoon session commences.

Mariam Dhawale, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women's Association said that it was "bizarre" that the government had not consulted women's organisations before taking such a crucial move.

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