NEW DELHI, India — India’s women’s minister on Friday called for the death penalty for child rapists as nationwide outrage mounted over the brutal gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl.
Demonstrations were held in New Delhi and other cities as horrific details emerged of the murder of the Muslim girl, who was repeatedly raped while being held for five days in the city of Kathua in Jammu, including at a Hindu temple.
“I have been deeply, deeply disturbed by the rape case in Kathua and all the recent rape cases that have happened on children,” the women and children’s minister Maneka Gandhi said in a Twitter video message.
Gandhi said her ministry would seek an amendment to India’s Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, “asking for the death penalty for rape on children below 12 years”.
The killing has shaken the country in a way reminiscent of the fatal gang rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012 that made headlines around the world.
Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress party, led a candlelight march late Thursday to the India Gate monument in Delhi — the site of mass protests after the 2012 attack — to highlight the “unimaginable brutality” of the latest killing.
“Like millions of Indians my heart hurts,” Gandhi said at the midnight rally. “India simply cannot continue to treat its women the way it does.”
Vikramaditya Singh, who joined protestors at India Gate later Friday, said deep reforms were needed to improve women’s rights in India.
“The women in this country are the victims of these crimes. Besides taking action in this case, we need to look at the… upbringing and education of men in our society,” Singh told AFP.
Eight people have been arrested over the killing, including four police officers and a minor.
The girl, whose identity was protected by a court order Friday, was murdered in January in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the charge sheet, she was abducted by the minor and an accomplice.
The girl was forced her to take sedatives and during five days in a shed and then a Hindu temple, she was repeatedly raped by the juvenile and different men, including a police constable.
She was finally strangled and beaten with a stone. According to the charge sheet, one of the attackers raped her just before she died. (Excerpt from AFP)