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India: Parliament passes death penalty bill for rapists

BBC.COM
India's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Monday that will see the death penalty handed out to anyone convicted of raping a child under 12.

The amendment to the Prevention Of Child Sex Offences (Pocso) act was made at the behest of Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, who said she believed this would deter sexual crimes against children.

It came soon after a series of high-profile cases against children, including the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Indian-administered Kashmir, and the more recent rape of a young girl in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

India's official crime data show the number of reported rapes of children increased from 8,541 in 2012 to 19,765 in 2016. 

In 2013, following the outrage over the rape and murder of a medical student aboard a moving bus in the capital Delhi, the government announced that the

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death penalty would be applicable to those convicted of rape resulting in death. 

The new amendments will enable a court to hand out a death penalty to someone convicted of raping a child under 12, even if it does not result in death.

Despite these changes to the law, however, India is a country that is reluctant to carry out the death penalty. It is currently prescribed only for the "rarest of rare" cases - the interpretation of which is left to the court. The country's last execution was on 30 July 2015.

Although welcomed by many, the new amendment has also been criticised by a number of activists who have questioned whether the death penalty is really an effective deterrent.



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