The Madhya Pradesh cabinet in December 2017 unanimously passed a Bill to award the death penalty to those involved in the rape or gang-rape of girls below the age of 12. And now, the Karnataka government is mulling doing the same in the state.
Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy discussed the issue in the Legislative Council on Tuesday. Speaking to TNM, he pointed out that there has been an increase in cases of rape under the POCSO Act in Karnataka over the past few years.
“From molestation to rape, there has been an increase in crimes against children. The state government is considering taking serious action by awarding stringent punishment for the serious nature of child rape,” he said.
“When Madhya Pradesh passed the Act awarding death penalty to child rapists, I had written to the MP government and gotten a copy of the Act. We are going through the clauses. We are also waiting for a report on the MLC VS Ugrappa Committee, which was set up to probe the safety of women and children in our state. We have received an interim report and are waiting for the final one and also the committee’s recommendations,” he added.
It is unclear if Karnataka’s Bill will be limited to only the rapists of girl children, or will include boys and transgender kids, as well.
While many would see this as a welcome deterrent against sexual crimes against children, experts have earlier pointed out to TNM that the proposal is flawed.
For instance, Kushi Kushalappa of Enfold, an NGO working towards prevention of child sexual abuse, said that the assumption that only girls get raped was “a silly position in today's scenario”.
“We have to cover children who are transgender, boys, and girls equally. When we say only girls can be raped, the message that we continue to send out is that girls are more vulnerable. All children are equally vulnerable,” she said.
Bengaluru-based researcher Swagata Raha also pointed out that the Madhya Pradesh legislation ignored the fact that most abusers are known to the children. “Are we expecting that children will come forward and then disclose that the abuse has been perpetrated and then go ahead and testify against their fathers, uncles, brothers or neighbours? That’s too much of a burden to put on a child,” she had argued.
It has also not been established through research if death penalty is really a deterrent for criminals.
There is also the question of whether the death penalty would apply to minors who may commit the crime.