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April 21, 2018

India government moving forward with the death penalty for child rape

This new Bloomberg piece, headlined "India Approves Death Penalty for Child Rapists After Outcry," provides a useful reminder that the United States is not the only nation inclined to respond with punitive new laws in the wake of a high-profile horrible crime.  Here are the basics:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet cleared an ordinance that imposes the death penalty on convicted child rapists.

The amendment to the nation’s criminal law, which allows the death sentence in cases of rape of girls under age 12, was approved on Saturday, an official told reporters in New Delhi after the cabinet meeting. Once the president signs the ordinance, it will become a law.

The government acted after the recent failure of India’s ruling party to act on the growing outrage over two brutal rapes risked eroding Modi’s support ahead of state and national elections. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres had urged authorities to act, according to the Times of India newspaper.

The cabinet also raised the minimum sentence in cases of rape of a woman to 10 years from the current seven, and in the rape of a girl under 16 years of age to 20 years from 10. In a crime that shocked India, an 8-year-old Muslim girl in Jammu and Kashmir was kidnapped in January, drugged, held for several days in Kathua, was raped multiple times then murdered, local police said. In Uttar Pradesh, a state lawmaker from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is accused in a June 2017 rape case in Unnao.

Of course, this particular punitive reaction to an awful child rape is no longer possible in the US: the Supreme Court ruled a decade ago in Kennedy v. Louisiana that the use of the death penalty as punishment for child rape is unconstitutionally severe and thus barred by the Eighth Amendment.

Interestingly, just the other day I was doing a little research on the death penalty for non-capital crimes and I came across one especially notable reaction to the Kennedy ruling.  Here is the quote, and readers are welcome to guess who said it before clicking through to the link:

"I have said repeatedly that I think that the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes," [this prominent federal politician] said at a news conference.  "I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution." 

April 21, 2018 at 02:04 PM | Permalink



Obama in various ways is a moderate & it was somewhat laughable that he was made out to be some flaming leftie. His rhetoric at times, especially on a few issues, was stronger. But, even there, he was the "no red, no blue state" guy, promoting the idea of find some sort of middle ground in his rational fashion.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 22, 2018 12:02:55 AM

Stuppppidaggini. Even in United States it is extremely difficult to decide if an homicide is a death penalty eligible one and in this kind of crime there is a very hard evidence: a dead body.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Apr 22, 2018 8:19:54 AM

I contend, that legally, factually and morally, rape of a person, of any age, is, equally, repugnant.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Apr 22, 2018 8:35:37 AM

Ciao Dudù, how are you???? Still on the wrong side of history I see.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Apr 22, 2018 1:44:36 PM

Two things:

First, why does India's new rape law only apply to FEMALE children and, then only, if the convicted rapist is MALE? Does India think that it is okay to rape boys, but not girls? Rape is rape is rape! Moreover, you don't have to be male to commit a rape; all a female rapist would need would be some artificial device to forcibly penetrate a child's intimate parts to make it rape and to inflict the same suffering on the child victim as the way a human sex organ would have. Most U.S. jurisdictions define rapist and rape victim/survivor in gender-neutral terms; and this is the way it should be. India is still very backward when it comes to dealing with rape.

Secondly, doesn't making rape a capital felony simply give the green light for the rapist to kill his or her victim to prevent the victim's testimony in court? Besides, if one is going to get death for committing rape, then why not murder the victim? That would seem to be the thought of anybody who committed so horrible a crime that did not involve actual murder of the victim/survivor.

Posted by: william r. delzell | Apr 22, 2018 2:21:44 PM

william r. delzell, You are right. Even the Scotus understood it in Kennedy v Louisiana.

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Apr 22, 2018 3:46:21 PM


Precisely the reason I opposed the death penalty for rape, even though I find it well deserved.

Posted by: Dudley Sharp | Apr 23, 2018 10:50:50 AM

For sheer destructiveness, the place I would support expansion of the death penalty is attempted multiple murder, particularly of the terrorist variety. Like people who tried but failed to destroy an airplane in flight, or the person who set a fire in a crowded Seattle gay nightclub.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Apr 23, 2018 10:39:48 PM

British authorities ruling Palestine hanged several members of the underground Zionist Irgun organization in the 1940s following their conviction on charge of bombing and other violent attacks. Menachem Begin, former Irgun leader and later Prime Minister of Israel, reportedly told a former British Government minister that the executions had “galvanized” his group, which subsequently hanged several British soldier in retaliation. Menachem Begin said the hangings “got us the recruits that we wanted, and made us more efficient and dedicated to the cause … you were not sentencing our terrorists to death, you were sentencing a lot of your own people, and we decided how many”
Amnesty International “When the State Kills”, ACT 51/07/1989 p. 19

Posted by: Claudio Giusti | Apr 24, 2018 7:41:29 AM

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