India Rape: 4-Year-Old Dies After Sexual Assault

It has been two weeks since protests broke out in Allahabad, India after the abduction and brutal rape of a five year-old girl by her neighbor in Bihar. The girl is alive, but doctors had to remove a number of “foreign objects from her body, including candle pieces and a small bottle, from the girl's genitals.” On Monday, a four year-old girl died at a hospital in Nagpur of cardiac arrest inflicted by injuries from a sadistic rape by a 35 year-old man. The list of horrific juvenile rapes, particularly on women, continues to grow and many Indians feel that the recent myriad of sexual assault legislation does not go far enough. Lawyer Kirti Singh said:

“This is a piecemeal and fragmented ordinance which seems to be more of an exercise to make an impact, after twenty years of not doing anything they seem to be in a tremendous hurry to do something or the other to appease public sentiment.”

According to a report by the Asian Center for Human Rights, the number of juvenile rapes has grown at an alarming rate of 336% in India between 2001 and 2011 (from 2,113 to 7,112 cases). The report goes on to underscore the failure of the Indian Government to enact far-reaching or preventative legislation which enable offenders, such as the JJ(C&P)C Act.

Only recently, following the public protests over the gang-rape and murder of a 23 year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi, did Parliament approve legislation making stalking, voyeurism, trafficking of women, and acid attacks punishable under criminal law, and rape (that leads to murder) a capital offense. The recent legislation does not consider marital rape to be a criminal offense. It does not remove the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gives immunity to an army officer or senior police officer if a junior officer committees a sexual offense. It also lowers the legal age of consent from 18 to 16.

Part of the issue may be population density and the enervate economy. With a population of 1.2 billion is confined to an area the size of Alaska, Texas, and California, there will likely be more crime. However, the population density does not account for the low placement rate of law enforcement in India, being 129 police officers per 100,000 thousand (versus 350 per 100,000 U.S.) citizens, nor does it account for there being nearly one-fifth the number of courts as compared to the United States. It can take years for simple rent collection case to get to court. In addition, a 2009 report by Transparency International ranks India as 85 of 179 in corruption, the report goes on to state:

“Corruption is widespread in India…more than 50 per cent of the people had first-hand experience of paying bribe or peddling influence to get a job done in a public office. Taxes and bribes are common between state borders; Transparency International estimates that truckers pay annually $5 billion in bribes.”

Further legislation is necessary, but new laws are not the only solutions. Women in India have equal rights and there are sexual assault laws in place, but India does not have an adequate bureaucracy, judicial system, and law enforcement that will enforce it.

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