The first of six men accused of gang raping a woman in India has been found guilty and many are expressing outrage over the sentence handed down to the convicted juvenile. The boy, whose name could not be released because he was 17 at the time the crime took place, was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to three years in a “reformatory home.”
The 23-year-old woman who was the victim of the attack was riding a bus when the six accused allegedly kidnapped and tortured her. The student was raped, beaten and eventually died from the injuries she sustained. The brutality of the crime has left many, including her family, upset with the short incarceration of the young man in question.
According to the Minister of State for Home Affairs, RPN Singh, the juvenile was given the maximum sentence legally possible. Juvenile law states that an individual can only be tried as an adult if they are 18 years or older at the time of the crime. So, despite the severity of the attack, there is no other legal outcome that could have occurred.
Singh admits that the sentence may be light for the crime, and released a statement on Sunday, Sept 1, saying, “I understand that a lot of people are disappointed with the verdict of the Juvenile Justice Board. He has been given the maximum punishment possible under juvenile law. People are demanding a stringent punishment but that can only happen if the laws are changed. Government cannot function with anger; it can only function according to the law. At least we know that the juvenile was given maximum punishment under the juvenile law.”
His statement has done little to quell the outrage in India regarding both the gang rape and the sentence handed down to the juvenile. Many want the age in which juveniles can be tried as adults to be more flexible, allowing accommodation for extreme crimes such as this one.
The current age limitation surrounding whether a person is tried as a juvenile or adult in India is set according to United Nation guidelines concerning children’s rights. As a result, the government is hesitant to change the law, insisting that the goal is to reform, not just to punish. There are some who argue that the conditions of the reform facilities that juveniles are sent to do little to actually reform them.
Others lament that the young man in question will barely be punished because he will be allowed recreation time the reform home and then he will be allowed back into society.
The push for law reform resulting from this case has been swift and widespread. Newspapers have featured scathing editorials over the injustice felt by the people. Politicians have also taken up the cause with legislation scheduled to be set into motion as early as next week.
The family of the victim intends on pursuing a harsher sentence for the young men. If convicted, the remaining four men could face the death penalty. The last suspect, Ram Singh, was found dead in his jail cell. It is suspected that his death was a suicide.
Early police reports stated that the juvenile was an eager, vicious participant in these crimes. The possible death penalty for the other men involved in the gang rape bring clarity to the outrage in India when juxtaposed with the juvenile’s light sentence.
Written by: Vanessa Blanchard