New Delhi: Criticised over the recent spate of rapes of minors, the government may have introduced capital punishment through an executive order but not everyone seems convinced that's the right step forward. Among them former chief justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah, some lawyers, child rights activists and families of three child survivors of sexual abuse who came together at a public event in Delhi.
"I don't want my husband to be hanged," said a 37-year-old woman who got a case registered against him for raping their 8-year-old daughter.
The traumatised woman said her husband violated the child three times before she came to know about it. "I asked him to stop but he used to beat me a lot," she recalled with tears in her eyes.
When all attempts to persuade her husband failed, the woman approached the police but that's when another "nightmare" began.
It took almost 12 hours to convince the police to register the case, she said. The child was questioned in front of her father. And for the last three years, the case is under trial. Despite all the hardship, she doesn't approve of capital punishment.
"Who will support me if he is hanged," she questioned.
Justice Shah believes the focus should be on setting up special courts for child rapes and training cops to handles such cases sensitively.
"Awarding death penalty is a populist measure. A remedy based on wrong diagnosis," he said, adding that judges rarely give the death penalty as the evidence put up before them is weak. .
A mother whose 13-year-old son was sodomised by his schoolmates pointed to the shoddy police investigation due to which the accused who were juveniles got away.
According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau, only 3-4 out of every 10 men charged with child rape are convicted.
"It is the certainty of punishment and not its severity that acts as a deterrent," said Bharti Ali of Haq, a non-profit working for child rights.
Almost 89 per cent of cases registered under the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) are pending, say activists.
"The statement of my child was recorded in court after months. The lawyers asked humiliating questions," said a man who is seeking justice for his four-year-old daughter who was raped nearly six years ago, adding that the accused should "suffer for the rest of his life in jail".
"The government may say that there are special courts for child sexual assaults. One just has to go to a POCSO court to see that judge has many other cases to hear," said lawyer Vrinda Grover.
On Monday, the Delhi high court asked the centre whether any scientific assessment was done or the views of rape survivors taken before coming up with the ordinance that includes death penalty for the rape of children below 12.