But proposal did not receive much support at conference
There is need for amendment to criminal laws to include the death penalty in sexual assault cases where a victim is unable to lead a normal life.
This was stated by Union Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath on Friday at a conference of Chief Secretaries and Directors-General of Police on crimes against women and atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Ms. Tirath’s proposal did not receive much support though the police chiefs stressed on need to make harsher laws to deal with rape cases.
“Regarding punishment for rape, mixed views have been emerging, ranging from chemical castration to death penalty … I feel that if death penalty becomes the norm, this may reduce conviction rate and this may cause even more burden to rape survivor. However, cases of rape where the survivor is no longer able to enjoy a normal state of existence and functioning should definitely have a provision for death penalty,” she said.
However, sources in the Home Ministry said that though the conference saw DGPs and Chief Secretaries stressing need to make harsher laws and improve the conviction rate in rape cases, very few States favoured capital punishment. “There were many suggestions on how to deal with crimes against women, particularly cases of sexual assault … There was hardly any strong pitch for death sentence [to deal with rape cases],” said a senior Ministry official.
Ms. Tirath urged the Ministry to frame stringent laws to deal with cases related to crimes against women. She called for making crimes under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code (outraging the modesty of a woman) that include an element of criminal force, a non-bailable offence.
Differing from her party, the Congress, which favours chemical castration, she said it was not a practical option as it required continuous administration of necessary medication. Referring to the Delhi gang-rape and growing crimes against women, she noted that such incidents created a growing concern about the security of women. The need of the hour was a complete overhaul of the system. She asked the State police chiefs to not treat eve-teasing and stalking as normal incidents, and ensure that the culprits were dealt with severely.
“Protocols for police, judiciary, investigating agencies, medical functionaries, and legal aid agencies should be codified and strengthened for which my Ministry is ready to provide full support. This should include codifying steps such as compulsory registration of FIRs, treatment protocols for rape and other sexual assault victims,” she said.
Ms. Tirath pointed out that there was need to regularly review the implementation of laws related to women. “My Ministry is developing a resource tool for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act … This would be launched on January 21 and could be adopted by all States governments. We are also developing a National Level Institute for Women Empowerment with branches in different regions and States … It would be able to take up the work related to generating awareness, gender sensitisation, training and capacity building in a much more structured manner with greater impact,” she said.