India To Limit Brutal Rapes to 1 Per Month
New Delhi, India (AP) – In the wake of several violent rapes over the last several months, the Indian government has announced a cap on horrifically brutal sexual assaults, limiting the number to 12 per year. The law will go into effect in January 2014.
The four-year-old victim of an April 17 rape in Madhya Pradesh died today, on the heels of a similarly brutal rape involving a five-year-old girl in New Delhi two weeks ago. Sexual assault of minors in India has become increasingly common in recent years, or at least have become increasingly reported. Two other cases of gang rapes made international headlines in December and January and sparked tumultuous protests across the country. Demonstrators accused the police and prosecutors of treating accused rapists leniently and turning a blind eye to the phenomenon.
The new legislation, formally ratified this morning, applies only to those “non-consensual sexual acts,” as the bill refers to them, that generate significant media coverage and spark public outcry. Theoretically, all twelve highly publicized annual beating-rapes or rapes of children could occur in the same month, as long as none occurred during the rest of that calendar year. And since the law only covers the assaults that make headlines, it will not affect the thousands of rapes that continue to occur.
“This is a call to rapists to be much more careful,” said Shewantsit Dontcarewatchusay, a Mumbai sociologist who has studied the issue extensively with the young offspring of his neighbors. “It would be too ambitious, I think, to call for a complete elimination of excessively violent rapes in so short a time, but anything to keep things quiet is a welcome step.”
Dontcarewatchusay expects further legislation in the same vein if the community of rapists and child molesters embraces the new law. The practice of highly publicized gang rape might fall out of disuse entirely if adherence to the new limits takes hold. “It’s in their interest to generate as little publicity as possible so they can continue their work,” he said of his fellow practitioners.
Some advocates have been agitating for more reform along different lines. Idowanna Takkabowdittagain, a lobbyist, represents a number of organizations that would prefer the simpler step of a ban on using social media to facilitate the unwanted publicity that has made these incidents so unpopular. The advantages of such a policy, she noted, have been demonstrated in locales such as North Korea, where not a single rape has been reported in international media in decades.
Others call for more sweeping measures. “If we outlaw women this problem would solve itself,” argues Missengh Deforestforthetrees, who leads a non-profit legal research foundation. He referred to similar initiatives in other countries, but concedes that India’s huge population might make implementation of the measure a formidable logistical challenge.
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