The Madhya Pradesh Assembly unanimously passed a bill named “Dand Vidhi (Madhya Pradesh Sanshodhan) Vidheyak, 2017” that states that perpetrators who are found guilty of raping 12-year-old girls or younger will be receiving death penalty and was introduced in the House by Rampal Singh, the Law and Legislative Affairs Minister.
Dand Vidhi Vidheyak 2017 Bill provides :-
- Death penalty or minimum term of 14 years rigorous imprisonment as punishment for the rape of girls aged 12 or under.
- For gang-rape of minor girls, the minimum punishment has been increased to 20 years of rigorous imprisonment.
- The bill also proposes punishment for sex on the pretext of marriage and stalking, and for second and subsequent offences, the prison term increases.
- The Madhya Pradesh bill increases the present punishment under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code for rape and gang-rape of minors.
Reasons to Introduce Bill & NCRB Report :-
- Initially, the bill was introduced by the state government as a reaction to the rape of a minor girl in October who was returning from her coaching centre.
NCRB (National Crimes Record Bureau) 2016 Report :-
- It indicated that Madhya Pradesh is one of the top three states, after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra where there are maximum charges (4,717) framed under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO).
- It also suggests that Madhya Pradesh is the state with the maximum number of rape cases (4,882 out of nearly 39,000 reported rapes) in the country.
Bill lacks on Preventive Measures like :-
- Sexual violence against children, especially ensuring their safety and security from both direct and indirect violence.
- It does not put out any measures to combat sexual assault or rape of minors, and this makes such a bill regressive and against human rights norms of the country.
- The bill also does not take into account that most perpetrators who commit crimes against children are known to them.
A study by NLSIU’s Centre for Child and the Law states that in 70 percent of these cases, the accused is known to the victim. Sometimes in such cases, the children turned hostile because the perpetrator was the father or a close relative. In such cases, the bill’s harsher punishment is likely to silence the victims altogether as they might feel guilt for sending their family members to jail.
Issues Regarding Bill :-
- Death penalty is a human rights violation and its use has been immensely arbitrary. Combating one human rights violation with another is not a meaningful solution to the problem of rape.What is needed is a comprehensive set of preventive steps such as :-
=> Awareness of rights, sex education in schools and demanding more accountability in both public as well as private institutions, instead of death penalty.
- The bill talks about the heinousness of rape of minors and does not mention the rape of major women.
Conclusion :- In my opinion, the bill is regressive and against the normative standards of human rights. Madhya Pradesh and other states that have high incidence and reporting of sexual violence must look at underlying causes and attempt to build a more sustainable model of preventing sexual violence against all women regardless of age.