Recently, on April 21, 2018, the Indian government approved the death penalty for crimes surrounding the rape of children under the age of 12. This new order came to light after the public backlash the government faced in regards to its inaction and silence over the horrifying rape of an 8-year-old girl, Asifa, in Kashmir.
As India takes steps to combat such tragedies with its laws, it is important to keep in mind that the world’s largest democracy still faces enormous hurdles that are yet to be crossed in order to achieve a protected society. The struggles in achieving such a state of protection against sexual crimes lie firstly in the re-examination of existing laws, in order to identify how India’s current legal systems may be failing to bring about this change. The most note-worthy issues that emerge are as follows:
- Marital rape isn’t considered a crime in India. The reasons for this that are provided include how it is impractical to criminalize marital rape in India owing to issues such as poverty, illiteracy and the need to preserve the “sanctity of marriage.” It is this perspective that allows the connotations of consent to be trivialized.
- The punishment for the rape of a separated wife is less severe in comparison to the rape of other women. This highlights a sickening prejudice that most certainly should not be allowed to hold its place in legal proceedings. Indian stigmatization of separated women should not be allowed to belittle the gravity of their plight.
- The rape of males, who are of age, is not considered a crime. Gender parity can only be achieved when all laws are made gender neutral. This currently isn’t the case in India where male rape victims aren’t recognized. It is equally important to have discussions on how legal systems fail to protect the rights of male victims if we hope to achieve an egalitarian society.
- Indian courts are notorious for delays in execution, which has led to a sizeable backlog of cases. In fact, according to lawyer Abha Singh, “the conviction rate in rape cases in India was only 28 percent, implying that 72 out of 100 suspects are going unpunished.”
Only in addressing these issues by combating negligence and fostering the reformation of our policies can we achieve a society in which the laws truly protect citizens. With laws being the foundation on which society stands, the revisitation of outdated and impractical legal systems is of the utmost importance, in order to tackle the concerns we face from a grass-root level.
Photo credit: By Jim Ankan Deka/Wikimedia Commons