On the death row

Maharashtra Cabinet Introduces Bill for Death Penalty in heinous crimes against Women and Children

The Maharashtra cabinet has approved the introduction of two draft bills pertaining to atrocities against women and children in the assembly session scheduled to begin on 14th December.

The two draft bills are, The Maharashtra Shakti Criminal Law (Maharashtra Amendment) Bill, 2020 which would be called the Shakti Act once passed and the Special Court and Machinery for Implementation of Maharashtra Criminal Law, 2020 which is for the implementation of the Shakti Act.

The draft bill talks of a death penalty to offenders who commit crimes against women and children which are heinous in nature. Those who are guilty of rape, child abuse or acid attack will be given imprisonment of at least 10 years, which may be extended for a lifetime or even capital punishment. Acid attack survivors will be given a compensation of 10 lakhs for cosmetic surgery which will be collected from the offender through fines.

According to the Bill, investigation in such crimes has to be completed within 15 working days, as opposed to two months currently and trials have to be completed within 30 working days instead of 60 working days. The bill provides for special police investigation teams and 36 special courts for such cases in the state, with a special prosecutor in each court as reported by The Indian Express.

As reported by Scroll.in, the bill provides for new categories of crimes. Threats and defamation using any medium including telephone and social media platforms will involve a fine for a lakh or two months imprisonment. Even failure to share data regarding these cases with the police can cost internet providers and mobile companies with a penalty of 5 lakhs and jail term for a month.

These bills are on similar lines as Andhra Pradesh’s Disha Act which is still awaiting an approval form the central government.


The Invisible Reasons Behind India’s Rape Epidemic

One rape case was reported every 16 minutes in India in 2019. This makes India one of the worst places to be a woman. The rise in the cases of sexual crimes in our country is undeniable. Despite the current cultural change and conversation surrounding women’s safety, India seems to be on the brink of an epidemic. This therefore, forces us to dig deep and question the reason behind India’s rape crisis- is there an increase in the crimes committed or is the number this high due to more cases being officially reported.

Due to waves of Feminism, better education and more awareness, sex has gone from a hushed topic to a more open conversation where people unabashedly talk about their experiences with sexual abuse and assaults. This comfort not only destigmatizes the sufferers of sexual violence but also brings with it a further opportunity to better understand the plight that the victims of these heinous crimes go through. Due to the attackers now being named, understanding the mentality and motives behind these crimes is also becoming easier.

To start with it is important to understand the term xenophobia. The term xenophobia is defined as the fear or hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange. This can be linked to racism, discrimination, riots, wars and just violence in general. But how does this relate to a secular nation like India? India is in the midst of the largest migration the world has ever seen – the rural to urban migration. Close to 31 villagers are estimated to show up in a city every minute, over the course of the next four decades. This rapid and unprecedented transformation has led to a very violent cultural confrontation. Men from these villages, many of whom have had barely any interaction with the opposite sex other than their mothers or sisters for much of their lives, go from the age old well set caste systems and gendered roles to a place where these old traditional social systems and roles simply cease to exist. With the dawn of modernization and westernization, this leads to a lot of confusion in the minds of these young men and women. Moreover, the government provides less attention to the issues of these migrants.

Only ten percent of internal migrants are employed by the industries while the rest are forced into the informal sector where they work in the streets and live in the slums, disregarded by the state and even the society. This can lead to a sense of deepened xenophobia with these internal migrants viewing themselves as devalued and weaker i.e. more ‘feminine’. Something similar can also be seen in the society, when certain men fail to perform and match consistently to the perceptions of the dominant masculinities they are then devalued or feminized and placed under the same groups as the women. This rural to urban problem contributes as a causal factor in the accelerating rapes in India, especially in a city like Delhi. Despite this transformation being a contributor to this issue, it does not, however, conclude the discussion given the rise in the rates of rape cases within these villages as well. In a country like India where a woman is viewed as the honor of the family, especially in rural areas, a crime like rape becomes a tool for vengeance. With the government launching new schemes and programs to uplift the lower castes, aiming to get them jobs and education, we see a dispersion in the order between castes. This leads to a lot of anger among people of the higher castes who then project their power by raping women of the lower caste. The same tactics are observed in wars. Raping a woman is viewed as a means to ‘emasculate the men of the other community’.

Another alarming reason behind these crimes is India’s skewed sex ratio. With nine hundred and ten women per thousand men in 2020, India has the second lowest sex ratio after China. This may not seem like a big number but when we translate it into India’s population we see, approximately, forty million more men than women. Because of this skewed sex ratio, the age group of 17 to 35 year olds are left single without brides. The same age group is responsible for the most crime, with ninety-five percent of these men having criminal records. Historically a less female to male ratio is correlated to an increase in the number of crimes, violence, and a more patriarchal society.

Men have raped babies as well as 90-year-old women as well as men. Despite that the conversation always seems to be centered around blaming the women and her clothing. The prevalence of rape culture and unwilling to face the facts, not only heightens this victim blaming but can lead to fewer reporting of such cases. This attitude encourages the perpetrators to keep doing all the heinous things they want without being held accountable. However, we do see a positive wave of change with both men and women pointing out the flaws of the system and uniting to seek justice for victims of these crimes. While India is still in the midst of this epidemic, it is us, all of us who should question and stand up for what’s right which moves us closer to a more equal and just society.

Violence against women. Black and white portrait of scared and desperate woman, focus on the hands in protective gesture

19-year-old rape victim succumbs to her injuries as widespread protests demand justice

On 14th September 2020, a 19-year-old lower caste woman was raped by four men in Hathras, UP. She succumbed to her injuries at Delhi’s Safdarjung hospital on 29th September, a day after she was brought from Aligarh’s Jawaharlal Nehru Medical Hospital. Protests broke out in Hathras after her death with people blocking the main market and sanitation workers from the community refusing to operate. There were protestors outside the hospital as well, shouting, “Hang the rapists”.

On September 14th, the victim had gone to collect fodder from the field when the four men attacked her from behind and dragged her with the dupatta around the neck. She was then allegedly taken to a nearby field where she was raped. The accused then tried to strangulate her but she resisted. The victim suffered multiple fractures, paralysis and a deep cut in her tongue.

The police said that around 10:30 pm that very day, the brother of the victim registered a complaint that a man named Sandeep tried to strangulate his sister. Based on the written complaint the police registered an FIR under IPC sections 307 and ST/SC Act. On 19th September Sandeep was arrested.

The woman was in a critical condition when she was admitted in the hospital and could not give a statement but on 22nd September, she named three people who allegedly gang raped her. Then the police added rape charges to the existing complaint as well. Based on the details, the accused, Luvkush was arrested on 23rd September, Ravi was arrested on 25th September and Ramu was arrested on 26th September. All of them are currently in jail and will be tried in a fast track court.

After the victim passed away, the family was given a monetary compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs and IPC section 302 (punishment for murder) has also been invoked by the police.

The woman was cremated but the family alleged that the police cremated her without their consent. Conflicting reports have emerged with some saying that the family was locked in the house while the cremation was taking place while others claim that the cremation even though without consent, took place in the presence of the women’s father. The whole village seemingly came out to protest against the police allegedly took the body of the victim away forcefully for cremation in the dead of the night.

The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, after consulting PM Modi, said that a 3-member, SIT member team will probe the case and submit a report within 7 days. The police have denied that the woman was raped but there was an outage on social media platforms, rife with details of how the rape took place. The police have denied all the details on social media and stood their ground saying that the girl was strangulated only. IG Piyush Mordiya, stood by the police and said that the medical records do not indicate rape. The medical records have been sent to the forensic science lab in Agra for further investigation.  Even the Hathras police is under scrutiny now for various lapses in the investigation.

Since the rape, apart from protests demanding justice in West Bengal, UP and Delhi, the social media platforms have also become a medium for protests. While some social media posts believe the incident to be a caste related atrocity, others have been just demanding justice and standing up for the victim and her family on Instagram, Twitter and other platforms.

Amongst the raging protests, former Supreme Court judge, Markandey Katju, among other prominent personalities, stood up for the case saying he strongly condemns the incident and demands harsh punishments for the perpetrators. In the same post on social media he also said, “If we really want to end or reduce rapes, we have to create a social and economic system in India in which there is no or little unemployment.” According to the former Judge, that India is a country where sex is allowed only after marriage and with the high rates of unemployment a lot of men are not able to get married, denying them sex which is a basic necessity. This left a bitter taste in the mouths of many readers.

On 28th September the Bhim army chief, Chandrashekhar Azad was arrested for protesting at Safdarjung Hospital, against the incident.  60 people were detained outside the UP Bhawan in Delhi for protesting on 30th September. Congress activists also arranged a candle light protest in New Delhi. These protests are slowly spreading to various parts of the country as people want justice for the 19-year-old victim and her family.

Orissa HC slams State for failing to act earlier in pregnant differently-abled rape survivor’s case

The Orissa High Court on 23rd September denied to give permission to terminate the pregnancy of a physically and mentally challenged 22-year-old woman, who was a sexual assault survivor and directed the Odisha government to pay as an immediate measure a sum of Rs 5 lakh by way of ex gratia within seven days. The Court even issued an 11 point of guidelines for the State and 14 points general guidelines to follow when they get cases of pregnancies arising from rape.

The court stated that the termination of pregnancy, which is more than 24-week-old, would put the victim life in danger. The court directed the state government to further grant an amount of Rs 3 lakh if she delivers a male child and Rs 5 lakh in case of a female child. The court said that she will also be entitled to receive compensation awarded under the Victim Compensation Scheme. The court said,” The entire education of the yet-to-born child will be the responsibility of the state government.”

The petitioner is a physically and mentally challenged women, who is a resident of a village in the Kujanga police station area in Jagatsinghpur district. She was raped by a local and the police complaint was filed after her parents came to know about it. By the time, her mother approached the high court, seeking permission to terminate the pregnancy, medical reports indicated that the woman was already pregnant for over 20 weeks. Advocates Subhash Chandra Puspalaka, AK Tarai, T Priyadarshini and T Barik represented the petitioner while the State was represented by Additional Standing Counsel BR Behera and Government Advocate Jyoti Prakash.

The District Legal Services Authority(DLSA) has been directed to ensure that the petitioner mother does not mismanage funds.


Source: https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/orissa-hc-slams-state-for-failing-to-act-earlier-in-pregnant-differently-abled-rape-survivors-case-issues-guidelines

Judgement: https://images.assettype.com/barandbench/2020-09/45fd4d6e-bff5-4e3f-952f-f8666365b056/Orissa_HC_MTP_Judgment.pdf