Crime

Court sentences three men to death for rape, murder of 15-year-old girl

A local court in India’s western state of Maharashtra Wednesday sentenced three men to death over the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.

The men in their 20s had in July 2016 raped the teenager in Kopardi village of Ahmednagar district, about 302 km east of Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra.

“All three convicts in the Kopardi rape and murder case have been given death penalty today by Ahmednagar district court,” a court official said.

“The conviction was announced by the court on 18th of this month.”

The victim, a class 8 student, belonged to the upper-caste Maratha community while the accused men were low caste Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

The incident triggered massive outrage across the state with thousands of Marathas taking to the streets in protest.

In December 2012, a fatal gang-rape of a medical student in New Delhi brought to spotlight crimes against women in India.

The incident saw huge protests and resulted in new anti-rape laws in the country.

However, brutal sexual attacks against women and girls continue to be reported across India.

On October 11, India’s Supreme Court ruled that sex with a wife below 18 years of age amounts to rape, a landmark judgment aimed at stopping child marriages.

“If a man has sexual intercourse with a wife who is below 18 years, it is an offence. The minor wife can complain against the husband within one year,” it said.

The court also said that the exception in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which did not criminalize sex with a minor wife aged between 15 and 17 years, violated the Indian Constitution.

“Exception in rape law is discriminatory, capricious and arbitrary… It violates bodily integrity of the girl child,” it ruled.

India has 23 million child brides. But rape and child marriage laws disagree on consent age.

The Indian Penal Code defines sex with a girl below 18 years, even with her consent, as a crime. However, an exception is made if the girl is his wife and between 15 and 17 years.

The court’s order came in the wake of a petition by Independent Thought, a non-governmental organization, that had flagged the contradiction in law.

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