India: Head of Delhi Commission on Women calls for prompt capital punishment for child rape

Saturday, February 3, 2018

On Wednesday, following the rape in India's capital, New Delhi, of an eight-month-old girl, Swati Maliwal, head of the Delhi Commission for Women, announced she was beginning a 30-day Satyagrah Aandolan — a form of non-violent civil protest — to persuade the Government of India to impose the death penalty promptly when offenders rape children. She asked for others to join in her protest action.

As reported in the Indian press on Monday, the baby girl was initially in critical condition after she was raped on Sunday at her home in Subhash Nagar in western New Delhi while her parents were at work. According to the police and a statement by the baby's father to the agency Asian News International, when the mother returned, the baby was crying and was covered in blood. A police spokesman said the baby's 28-year-old cousin was arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act and Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code.

After Ms Maliwal visited the baby's hospital, she tweeted: "How can Delhi sleep today when 8 month baby has been brutally raped in Capital? Have we become so insensitive or we have simply accepted this as our fate?", and addressed Prime Minister Narendra Modi demanding "stricter laws and more police resources" to combat rape. She said the baby's internal injuries were "horrific" and "inhuman" and had required three hours on the operating table to repair, and she could "still hear her screams and cries". Others responded with tweets calling the rape "monstrous" and "disgusting and disturbing".

In a tweeted statement on Wednesday announcing her protest action, Ms Maliwal demanded offenders who rape children should be executed within six months. "I will not go home for 30 days. I will work in the office throughout the day and at night I will inspect different places of Delhi. I will do double work. I will sleep in the office only. I give 30 days' time to accept my demands." She also demanded a 14,000-person expansion of the Delhi Police and improvements to police software and forensics resources and reform of the prosecution department. She asked "people who understand the severity of such crimes and who really care for their kids" to join her in going house to house throughout Delhi to get the government to meet her demands.

Since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus, there have been widespread protests in India against rape culture and calls for heavier penalties for rape. In response the government has made the law stricter and introduced dedicated 'fast-track' courts. Problems persist. There have been other press reports of child rape in the country in recent years, including the kidnapping and rape of a three-month-old in Hyderabad in 2015 and the kidnapping and rape of an eleven-month-old in Delhi in 2016. National Crime Records Bureau 2016 statistics list 19,765 child rapes, an 82 per cent increase over the previous year.