Can Capital Punishment Curb Child Sexual Abuse? Experts Weigh in

Can Capital Punishment Curb Child Sexual Abuse? Experts Weigh in

Gender

The Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, 24 July, passed a Bill entailing amendments to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act by including death penalty for aggravated sexual assault on children, besides providing stringent punishments for other crimes against minors.

The Bill will now be sent to the Lok Sabha for its approval.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill, 2019 also provides for fines and imprisonment to curb child pornography. It was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday by Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

The amended bill got support from members of different political parties from across the spectrum.

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While Some Call the Bill Regressive, Some Say Capital Punishment Will Instil Fear of God

Activists and child sexual abuse survivors, however, are of the view that capital punishment will hardly act as a deterrent.

“The POCSO Amendment Bill that was just passed is regressive. It is going to do more damage to children. It is a violation of human rights and it undermines the very law that it trying to amend. The amendments are also not based on any kind of understanding of the nuances or the dynamics of how sexual abuse of children takes place. Sexual abuse of children takes place primarily within the family, that we call incest.”
Anuja Gupta, Founder, Rahi Foundation

Activist Harish Iyer feels that increasing the quantum of punishment is like putting ‘band aid’ to the problem instead of solving the issue.

“Asking for stringent punishment is merely a bandage solution. The more tough part would be to work towards something that would impact the change of mindset. The severity of punishment is not a deterrent to the crime the certainty of punishment is.”  

However, Additional Solicitor General of India Pinky Anand believes that capital punishment will instil a ‘fear of God’ among the people which will deter them from committing sexual crimes against children.

“It is very important that a message should be sent. That message comes across when you prescribe criminal method of dealing with criminals and ensure that the punishment is deterrent. So that it puts the fear of God into people who might want to do the crime.”

Smriti Irani on Wednesday also talked about the setting up of additional fast track courts to end the pendency of lakhs of cases.

“At least 1,023 fast-courts have been sanctioned by the government especially for women. More than one lakh cases are pending across the country and 18 states have given consent to establish these courts. The government has sanctioned over Rs 700 crore for the expenditure and by 2021, we aim to form these courts.”

Advocate Liyi Marli Noshi, however, is of the view that police reforms should be a part of POCSO as well.

“I think the first thing should be that the a police station should have all support systems for the child. Police is the biggest stakeholder, the court comes later. The court’s decision depends on the investigation that the cops have done, right? We need a huge police force to understand the offence and the social repercussions of the offence.”

Activists also argue that the Bill should have gone to a standing committee to include more suggestions before being tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

The question that the government needs to address at the earliest is why are the conviction rates abysmally low? And if there are no convictions, will a death sentence really deter sexual crimes against children?

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