Tripura: 7 teenagers rape a 8 year old after inviting her to play hide and seek

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Eight. Say it out loud. Eight years old. Hear the sound of the word. Imagine the age. Eight years old girl. Imagine her innocence and naivety, in a little frock and braided hair. Imagine her playing with her friends from the neighbourhood – teenage boys. Imagine her parents’ state of mind – their reassurance and comfort at the fact that her child is safe.

Now imagine her gang-raped. Imagine that eight-year-old brutally gang-raped, by the same teenager boys whom she had trusted in all her guileless innocence. Does it seem too barbaric? Something too cruel and unbelievable? Afterall they were minor boys, how could they have done something so savage? After all, they were just neighbours, how could they be so heartless? Yet, they could. Yet, they were.

Representational image

In the village Tabaria of West Tripura, a little girl of age eight was raped by a group of seven minor boys. They had called her to play hide and seek, and then committed the heinous crime, in a spot afar. Six of the boys have been arrested while one of them is absconding.

“According to the complaint lodged by the victim’s father, the accused boys called her to play hide and seek with them and then raped her,” said Sub-divisional Police Officer of New Capital Complex Priya Madhuri Majumder, according to NDTV. The girl, a Class 3 student, told her parents about the episode after returning home. The accused were detained after the complaint was lodged on Saturday.

Seven people were named in the first information report, Majumder said, adding: “We have arrested six of them while one is absconding.”

With the age of rapists gradually decreasing, it is imperative to revisit to Rape Laws once again. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 increased the minimum punishment for rape of women from seven years to ten years. But the question remains is it enough?

One can, and must argue that It is not a single crime when a child is raped. It is a lifetime crime that should have lifetime punishments attached to it. If the surviving child is, more often than not, going to suffer for life for the crime committed against them, shouldn’t the brutes suffer just as long? If it often takes decades for survivors to come to terms with exactly how much damage was caused to them, why is the punishment for perpetrators who are minors, so less? When the minimum punishment for rape of girls below 12 years is 20 years and the maximum is the death penalty, why must a minor be tried under juvenile law where the punishment is insignificant compared to the nature of his crime?

Representative image: source

The 2018 Ordinance amended the IPC to allow for the death penalty as punishment for rape of girls below the age of 12 years. However, there still lingers the larger question of allowing capital punishment, for the offence of rape.

While examining punishment for the offence of rape, the Justice Verma Committee (2013) had deliberated on whether the death penalty should be awarded. The Committee acknowledged that though rape was a violent crime, the punishment should be proportionate, as it was possible to rehabilitate the survivor.  The Committee supported enhanced punishment extending up to life imprisonment for rape, but not the death penalty.  The Law Commission (2015) observed that in cases related to rape and murder of minor boys and girls, courts have differed in awarding death sentence.  In March 2013, Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 to amend the IPC to allow death penalty only in rape cases where the accompanying brutality leads to death or leaves the victim in a persistent vegetative state, and in cases of repeat offenders.

On the other hand, it has been argued that imposing the death penalty for rape crimes could deter individuals from committing the offence and therefore help reduce its incidence.  Further, awarding death penalty allows for retributive justice for the victims.  Over the years, various court judgements have narrowed the application of the death penalty to the ‘rarest of rare’ cases and issued criteria to determine whether the accused deserves a death sentence.  This implies that courts can award death sentence for rape only in exceptional circumstances, which include where the reformation and rehabilitation of the convict is not possible.

However, with a sharp increase in the number of brutal rapes in India, the court must reconsider the definition of an ‘adult’ when it comes to the crime of rape of a minor, committed by another minor.



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