Only hours after a historic bill was passed in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, awarding a death sentence to child rapists in the area, an eight-year-old girl was allegedly raped.
The child’s accused is said to be her neighbour, a 19-year-old resident of Chander village. Sandeep Chaganlal entered the child’s house while she was watching TV when the offence occurred. The parents at the time, were not in the house when the rape took place, but once aware of the situation, forced entry into the neighbour’s house to detain Chaganlal.
The question now arises, when will the accused be hanged according to the new bill passed.
The Madhya Pradesh Assembly passed the historic bill, following an alarming number of rape cases reported in the state. The bill has proposed a death sentence for anyone convicted of raping girls below the age of 12.
The bill, named as Dand Vidhi (Madhya Pradesh Sanshodhan) Vidheyak, 2017, amended the sections 376 (a) and 376 (d)(a), recommending the death sentence or a minimum of 14 years to life if convicted of raping a girl aged 12 or under. The specific Section 376 (b)(a), which pertains to gang rapes of a minor have seen an increase in the minimum sentence to 20 years to life with an option of the death penalty.
The bill was passed unanimously, with Madhya Pradesh the first Indian state to introduce capital punishment as a deterrence against child rapists.
This new law is a breakthrough for minors, with the state government working toward removing the notorious tag of being the rape capital of India. Madhya Pradesh has the highest recorded number of rapes in the country. As per data, 12 girls and women are raped every 32 hours in the district. In 2015, the number of rapes recorded was 24,135.
However, observers are saying it is not enough. Under current laws notated in Section 493 (a), luring a woman for marriage by rape only attracts three years imprisonment and a large fine. However, the new bill also proposes further punishments against those who disrobe women, stalk on the pretext of marriage; and repeat offenders will not be eligible for bail.
But it comes a little too late for a father who was burnt alive for protecting his daughter against sexual assault.
On August 15 this year, Narmada Sahu, aged 45, filed a complaint at his police station saying his young daughter was repeatedly groped and harassed by a neighbour. For months Sahu was harassed to remove his complaint, until a trio barged into his home, poured kerosene on him and set him alight.
Although the three attackers have since been arrested, Narmada died in hospital of severe burns to his body.
It is hoped that with the new bill passed by the Madhya Pradesh Assembly that some deterrence and change will come about. For Narmada, his daughter, and the eight-year-old raped shortly after the bill was passed, it is a small action far too late.
Chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan at the time of the bill drafting, proclaimed that the bill is vital and would ensure its survival through the assembly.