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Delhi Child Rapes Spur Plans to Speed Trials

Protesting recent rapes, dozens of All India Students Association members demonstrate outside police headquarters in New Delhi, India, Oct. 18, 2015.

Authorities in the Indian capital plan to speed up rape trials and lower the age at which juveniles can be prosecuted as adults following two alleged gang rapes of young girls, Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said Monday.

More than 1,800 rapes were reported in India's capital, New Delhi, in 2014.
More than 1,800 rapes were reported in India's capital, New Delhi, in 2014.

Two juveniles were arrested on Sunday following the rape of a 2 ½-year-old girl in west Delhi. In another incident on the city’s east side, three men have been detained in connection with the rape of a 5-year-old girl.

The two cases triggered protests. Kejriwal said he had set up a panel of ministers to examine ways to curb sex crimes and strengthen the security of women and children in the city of 16 million people.

"I don't think [that] all the bad people live only in Delhi, and that people living in places like Kolkata, New York, London or Varanasi are saints," Kejriwal said at a news conference. "It is just that the fear of law is not there in Delhi. Rapists know nothing will happen to them."

More prosecution funds sought

Kejriwal said he planned to allocate funds to increase the number of fast-track courts to bring more convictions for rape.

The Delhi government also is considering allowing juveniles 15 and older to be tried as adults for crimes such as rape, he added.

The Juvenile Justice Act, the country's primary legal framework for minors, currently defines a person under 18 as a child and caps punishment to three years in a correctional home.

According to police, the 2-year-old girl was abducted by two boys on Friday and later found dumped in a park near her home. On the other side of the city, a 5-year-old girl was lured to a neighbor's house and raped by three men.

Both children have been admitted to city hospitals and are in stable condition, said police, adding that they may be discharged Monday.

The attacks come eight days after a 4-year-old girl was allegedly raped and slashed with a knife before being left unconscious on a railway track in the capital.

The cases have evoked memories of the fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student on a bus in December 2012, which led to nationwide protests and forced the government to tighten laws on crimes against women.

Kejriwal over the weekend blamed the city's police for failing to curb rising cases of sexual violence and reiterated a demand that the federal government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hand over control of Delhi's police force.

But police officials said it was difficult to prevent such cases, because victims were often known to perpetrators.

"The police could not have prevented this, as such kind of depravedness is now pervasive in certain areas and communities," Pushpendra Kumar, deputy commissioner of police, said Sunday.

Increasing incidence of rape

The number of rapes in India rose by 9 percent to 33,707 in 2014. New Delhi reported 1,813 of those rapes, making it the city with the highest number of such cases.

The data showed that 86 percent of rapes had been committed by close family members such as fathers, brothers and uncles, as well as neighbors, employers, co-workers and friends.

The report also indicated that nearly 40 percent of rape victims were younger than 18.