As India mourns the death of the 23-year-old medical student who was brutally gang-raped in Delhi, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa has demanded harsher punishment, including "death penalty and chemical castration" for those accused of rape. She has also announced a series of steps to check and tackle cases of sexual crimes against women in the state and ensuring their safety.
In a 13-point action plan that was unveiled today, Ms Jayalalithaa said steps will be taken to set up Fast Track Mahila Courts in each district in the state to expedite hearing of cases of sexual assault. "Daily hearing shall be conducted in all such sexual abuse cases to finish trial fast... the government counsel in such cases will all be women," the chief minister said. Incidents of sexual assault will be treated as a grave crime and top police officials would probe them, she added.
The chief minister also said that enquiry in all pending cases of sexual abuse shall be expedited and a report will be submitted in 15 days.
Even as a panel set up by the Centre reviews changes in the existing laws to provide for stricter punishment for sexual offenders, Ms Jayalalithaa said that she would request the government to make necessary changes in the law to provide death penalty and chemical castration to those involved in such crimes. "The Centre will be requested to amend the laws to ensure the maximum punishment of death penalty and chemical castration for those responsible for rapes. The offence should also be made non-bailable," the Chief Minister said.
The state government has also issued orders to put in place close-circuit television (CCTV) sets in all public buildings to identify those who trouble women, she said. Police personnel in plainclothes would be deployed at market places and colleges to ensure the safety of women.
Besides meeting the entire medical expenses of women who suffered sexual assault, efforts would also be made for their rehabilitation, the Chief Minister said.
The move comes in the wake of a wave of protests across the country - with Delhi serving as the epicentre - after Amanat (NOT her real name) was beaten with an iron rod and raped by six men on a moving bus on December 16. She died on Saturday morning at a hospital in Singapore. The incident stirred a series of demonstrations with students and activists demanding tougher punishment for rapists as well as steps to ensuring the safety of women.
(With PTI inputs)