NA Legislative Chair proposes death penalty for rape of child
Paro police recovered the dead body of an eight-year-old girl from 50 meters above Satsam Chorten, Drugyel, Paro on 18 September at around 9 pm. The deceased was sexually assaulted and murdered. Police are investigating the case.
Similarly, on 18 September at around 5 pm, Dagana police received a report of the rape of a five-year-old girl from Tashiding, Dagana. Accordingly, police apprehended the 17-year-old suspect on 19 September and he is from the same village.
The victim is the daughter of a caretaker in one of the schools, whereby the school principal, after knowing the incident, reported the crime to the police. The victim was immediately sent to the hospital for medical screening.
As per the medical report, there was damage to her private part, and the 5-year-old victim said the suspect raped her. The victim is currently in a stable condition, and case is under investigation.
On 19 September, Thimphu police arrested a 28-year-old Indian laborer for molesting a four-year- old girl in CFM market, Thimphu. The incident took place at around 3 pm on the same day.
The victim cried and shared the incident with her father, after which the father went through the CCTV footage in the market, whereby it was witnessed that his daughter was being molested by the suspect. Accordingly, the father reported the case to the police.
Police said that during the time of the arrest, the suspect was under the influence of alcohol. The suspect is under detention for further investigation.
Earlier, on 23 July Paro police apprehended a 14-year-old boy and a 11-year-old boy for raping a 6-year-old boy in Paro town.
With such grave offences against children, Tshewang Lhamo, Member of Parliament (MP) of Bongo-Chapcha constituency and Chair of the Legislative Committee of the National Assembly said that there are some provisions under the Constitution and the Penal Code of Bhutan (PCB) which needs to be amended, and which the committee can do as well.
She said, “Fundamental Rights under our Constitution says that, a person is not subject to capital punishment. So I believe that we are giving too much Fundamental Rights to criminals. Yes, it is Fundamental Right to life, but at the same time it is our fundamental duty not to kill anybody, be it a child or anyone.”
Under Fundamental Rights, she said that they have become very mild, easy and compassionate not to have capital punishment. “With change in human behavior with time, and especially with such kinds of reckless and unimaginable things happening, we might have to do something to stop those acts as this might become a social problem in future,” she said.
She also said that one provision under PCB, on statutory rape, which is raping of a child below the age of 12 years, the imprisonment term range from 9 years to 15 years, needs to be amended and made straight away into a death penalty.
The prison term should be equal for all the criminals, no matter if the culprit have murdered after raping or if the victim (child) is boy or a girl, because even boys are not safe now, she added.
“Men raping a boy should have the same death penalty, though by law it is sodomy (unnatural sex) whereby the sentencing is petty misdemeanor (below one year). Law should be same, after all rape is a rape,” she said.
She said, “Criminals coming out after serving their terms after committing this kind of crime is not fair.”
She said that they do not see any room to debate. “We can propose it anytime as we have already deliberated on the amendments of some of the provisions in PCB. So we can always apprise the NC members to relook into some provisions, which require immediate interventions like rape of a child and drugs,” she added.
“When they change that provision, they need to change the provision of the constitution too. As long as they do not hinder national security or sovereignty, there is no problem in changing some provisions in constitution, especially the capital punishment provision,” she added.
She said, “I believe we can do something with the laws, and we can move it in this upcoming session and do justice and prevent such things before it goes up in a massive way.”
“If people don’t want to change their mindset, we have to change the law accordingly,” she added.
Tashichhoeling MP Dil Maya Rai from the DNT has also come out in support of the death penalty for rape of children below 12. She made the statement on a Facebook on Sunday citing the law passed by the Indian Parliament.
She said even Gods and Goddesses have subdued evil and that fear needed to be instilled in potential perpetrators by hanging a couple of heads on the ropes.
Meanwhile, an official from National Commission of Women and Children (NCWC) said that they have carried out a study on rape of a minor in 2015 and from the cases reviewed, charges ranged from, rape of child above 12 years of age with 23 cases, statutory rape with 4 cases, sexual harassment with 3 cases, attempt to rape with 8 cases and gang rape with 1 case.
She said, “The analysis showed that 71.1 percent of the perpetrators were given the minimum punishment and in 13.3 percent the mitigating circumstances was taken into consideration based on the fact that the perpetrator had no previous criminal record.”
She also said that over 60 percent of the victims were known to the perpetrator and 15.56 percent of the victims were related to the perpetrator. It was also noted that such sexual offences are being committed both in urban and rural areas, and that victims were mostly from low income families.
“From these findings, it is apparent that though our laws provide for the protection of children, the enforcement of penalties has been weak, indicating misplaced compassion towards the perpetrators. Strong awareness and advocacy is needed so that the public are made aware on the safety and protection needs of our children,” she added.
In addition, she said that the recent gruesome tragedies that have been inflicted on the children is a wakeup call for all, parents, teachers, caregivers, social workers, policy makers, local government functionaries to stop being complacent and irresponsible.
She said, “Our children have a right to better care and protection in the homes, schools, public places, etc. It is time we put proper and adequate child protection policies and interventions in place. All stakeholders must work together to root out this evil from our society so that children can grow up in a conducive, safe and nurturing environment.”
Section 182 of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act of Bhutan 2011 states that “A defendant shall be guilty of the offence of statutory rape, if the defendant engages in any act of sexual intercourse whatever its nature with a child below twelve years, or an incompetent person, either with or without knowledge of the person being a child or incompetent person.”
In addition, section 182 of the Act states that “The offence of statutory rape shall be a felony of the first degree.” This means minimum of 15 years and maximum life imprisonment.
Editor’s note: The paper has carried the views of the two MPs who are exercising their Freedom of Expression under the Constitution. However, their views do not represent that of the paper.