India orders death sentences for child rapists in Madhya Pradesh

An Indian court sentenced two men to death for the gang rape of an eight-year-old girl that sparked angry protests.

The death sentences ordered on Tuesday were the first under a new law allowing for fast-track trials and capital punishment for child rapists.

Crowds chanted “Death to rapists!” after the brutal attack on the child in the central state of Madhya Pradesh two months ago. The victim is still in hospital with critical injuries.

The suspects picked up the child outside her school in Mandsaur as she waited for her father.

They took her to a secluded spot where they raped her, slashed her neck and left her to die. Her life was saved by locals who found her and rushed her to hospital.

A court in Mandsaur handed the sentences to the men, aged 20 and 24.

In April, India made the rape of children aged up to eight a capital offence following widespread outrage over earlier cases.

In January, an eight-year-old Muslim nomadic girl was raped and killed in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The last execution for rape was 14 years ago in Kolkata in eastern India. Dhananjay Chatterjee, a building guard, was hanged for the 1990 rape and murder of an 18-year-old.

India has been the focus of international attention since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a New Delhi bus sparked nationwide protests and highlighted its poor record on sexual violence.

A child is sexually abused every 15 minutes in India, according to the NGO Child Rights and You.

Crimes against minors have risen more than 500 percent over the past decade, the non-profit organisation said.

In 2016, police in India received 38,947 reports of rape compared with almost 35,000 in 2015, according to National Crime Records Bureau data. Activists say the actual figure is likely much higher as many such crimes go unreported because of the stigma of reporting sexual violence. 

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