Media reports on child rape spur court, tardy justice, cops booked for assault
The 16 July edition of Note This — our weekly round-up of media reports and opinions on sexual assault
Last week, the Indian government approved more stringent punishments in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, including the provision of the death penalty for “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”.
However, the Supreme Court has questioned the “deterrent effect of laws”, citing the media’s highlighting of an “alarming rise in the number of reported child-rape incidents”. This week, the court launched a public interest litigation and called for a detailed report with data from all states after “disturbing” initial findings.
“In our country, we are working on stringent punishments but no work is being done on primary prevention — intervening before the crime takes place,” says Megha Bhatia, the founder of Our Voix, an organisation that conducts workshops to prevent child sexual abuse. In an interview with NewsTracker’s Saumya Agrawal, she explains why she thinks the death penalty for child rape is “not a long-term solution to the ongoing problem”.
Across India: news since last Tuesday
According to data compiled by the Supreme Court registry last week, 24,000 cases of child rape have been reported to the police so far this year, and less that 4% of these have been disposed of by the courts. In Delhi, only two out of 729 cases have been disposed of between January and June.
Expressing dismay at these figures, the Supreme Court on Monday began its 10-day exercise to collect detailed district by district information on the status of child sexual assault cases so that a “zero tolerance policy” towards such crimes can be formulated.
Several opinion pieces have linked the recent developments in the Supreme Court to the ongoing debate about the death penalty in POCSO cases.
In ‘Will death penalty prevent child rape?, Amitabh Srivastava in the National Herald concludes that it probably will not.
A Times of India editorial titled ‘For zero tolerance policy against rape of women and minors, beef up both judiciary and police’ argues that the death penalty “can undermine our progress towards making children safer”. The Print quotes experts to make a similar point in “POCSO death penalty will spell life threat for victims, prolong trials”.
Meanwhile, in what has been described as “possibly the first case after the POCSO Act was amended to provide for death penalty”, a man in Bhopal was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl. The sentence was handed merely a month after the crime.
Several policemen in Rajasthan have been booked for allegedly beating and gang-raping a Dalit woman. The woman’s brother-in-law was also beaten and died while in police custody. The woman’s family have said that she was illegally detained for several days. The case has resulted in political bickering, with the leader of the opposition demanding a CBI probe.
No bail for Asaram
The Supreme Court has refused bail to ‘godman’ Asaram Bapu in the rape case against him in Surat, Gujarat, since the trial is ongoing. Asaram was sentenced to a life in another rape case last year.
Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi has introduced a private member’s bill in Parliament to make rape laws gender neutral. The bill proposes “changing the definition of the perpetrator and victim of sexual assault from ‘man’ and ‘woman’ to ‘any person’ ”, reported India Today.
Sexual violence and reproductive rights
On the occasion of World Population Day (July 11), Shireen Jejheebhoy in a Hindustan Times opinion piece says India must focus on ensuring the reproductive and sexual rights of women, which is something that it has “failed” to do so far. “Sexual violence against girls is an extreme manifestation of the violation of their sexual and reproductive rights and remains far too common,” she writes.
This roundup is curated from the RSS feeds of more than 30 English news publications from across India.
See the full list of rape and sexual violence cases reported this week and earlier on our web tool, NewsTracker Data. Use our search function or select one of our boards (such as #MeToo, #KeralaPriest, or #PoliticsofRape) to read reports on specific cases and/or themes.
You can follow us on @maarnews for NewsTracker Originals and more. Or use the sign up link below to get Note This directly in your inbox!