“Scenery is fine – but human nature is finer.”
– John Keats
President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday gave his assent to an Ordinance permitting death penalty for those convicted of raping girls below the age of 12 years. The Union Cabinet had on Saturday approved the Ordinance to allow courts to award death penalty for such crimes. The Ordinance provides for death sentence, imprisonment for life or a minimum sentence of 20 years for the rape of a child below 12 years. The sentence for the rape of a girl below 16 would be a minimum of 20 years but extendible to life imprisonment, while that for gang- rape of a girl below 16 would be imprisonment for life. The Ordinance also provides that investigation of all cases of rape shall be completed within two months. The Union Cabinet has approved the death penalty for rape of a minor below 12 years of age by amending the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. The move follows widespread outrage over the recent rape and killing of an 8-year-old girl in India’s Jammu-Kashmir state, the alleged rape of a girl by a ruling party lawmaker in Uttar Pradesh state and several other rape cases involving girls in the country. Many protesters expressed particular anger at India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party for initially siding with the accused in the Kashmir case. The young victim was a Muslim and the accused are Hindus.
With every passing day the disturbing trend of rape and molestation is increasing. Even more disturbing is the gruesomeness in which the crimes are being committed. In some cases, rape is being used as an instrument of settling communal grudges. What is appalling that minor girls are being raped by people fit to be their grandparents! Every time a sexual crime hits the headlines, there is a clamour for prescribing the death penalty for such offences. Given this, it is perhaps no surprise that the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir has evoked a similar response. Social media has also helped to a great extent in reporting or being the cause of exposing criminal acts against women and children. The BJP-led NDA government had taken the step to award death penalty for rapist of minors. But, there is also another side of social media as far as highlighting of crime against women and children is concerned. There is always high pitch reporting in the media regarding some particular rape cases and so being selective it does not report all the crimes against women and minors.
In social media justice is only called for some particular rapes and not all. Justice is called for, for all victims and we cannot at any cost let the nation divide on acts of crime. The Indian society doubly victimizes the victims of the criminal act of rape, irrespective of the victim’s survival, by stigmatizing the family. We need to grow up as a society to accept crime as a crime. The criminals should be punished as per the law. The change of our mindset is very much the need of the hour as no amount of the severest lawful penalty will deter a criminal without a change in our heart. India needs to respect the law and women and children. It is time for us to unite and stand with the victims of such crime. Along with justice we should change our mindset to offer succor to the victims and their families.