Three men who brutally gang-raped, murdered 8-year-old girl spared death sentence, get life in prison

The girl was reportedly abducted while she was out feeding horses and taken to a village in the Kathua district of Jammu on January 10 last year. A total of six men were convicted in the case


                            Three men who brutally gang-raped, murdered 8-year-old girl spared death sentence, get life in prison

A total of six men have been convicted in the 2018 gang rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl belonging to a nomadic tribe in India. The case provoked horror and inter-religious tensions across the country when the incident first came to light last year. Sexual violence against women and children is rampant in India. The investigation, dubbed as the "Kathua case", caused such public outrage that the government introduced the death penalty for child rapists, according to a Yahoo News report.

Three of the men have been jailed for life for the rape, torture and murder of the eight-year-old girl while three police officers who were found guilty of destroying evidence were each sentenced to five years in prison, stated a BBC report. Eight people, including a former government official, four policemen and a minor, were charged in connection with the crime. One of them has been acquitted and the minor is set to be tried separately.

The girl was reportedly abducted while she was out feeding horses and taken to a village in the Kathua district of Jammu on January 10 last year. For the next five days, she was sedated and held in a temple, repeatedly raped, and then strangled and bludgeoned to death, according to the charge sheet.

 Students chant anti-police slogans during a protest against the Indian government's reaction to recent rape incidents in India in front of the Presidential Palace on December 22, 2012, in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

The girl was apparently targeted in order to instill fear in the nomad community and eventually drive them out of the area, investigators suggested.

Addressing reporters outside a special court in Pathankot, Punjab, prosecuting lawyer Mubeen Farooqui said the six men who were sentenced later initially faced a maximum punishment with the death penalty and a minimum of life imprisonment. "We will appeal against the convictions in a higher court," defense lawyer H.S. Pathania said.

While three of them, including village head Sanjhi Ram and special police officer Deepak Khajuria, were convicted for rape and murder, three others were found guilty of corruption and destroying evidence. Nonetheless, all of them face life imprisonment under the country's strict conspiracy laws.

India grants the death penalty for the most brutal murders or terror attacks, with the last execution happening in 2015 over the Mumbai terror attacks in 1993.

A protester chants slogans as she braces herself against the spray fired from police water canons during a protest against the Indian government's reaction to recent rape incidents in India, in front of India Gate on December 23, 2012, in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

The Kathua case spurred two days of violent protests in Jammu along with concurrent demonstrations in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. They were reminiscent of the mass uprisings that took place following the disturbing gang-rape of a Delhi student on a bus in 2012 that made national headlines for weeks and shocked the world.

The Kathua trial was later shifted to Punjab after the victim's family and their lawyer complained to the Supreme Court that they were facing death threats. Sexual violence against children has been a major crisis in India, with nearly 20,000 child rape cases reported in 2016 alone. In 2014, a UN report claimed at least one in three victims of rape was a minor.

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