Two sisters will become the first Indian women to face the death penalty; Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit were convicted of abducting and killing 5 children. Despite appealing, the Indian government has ruled their crimes serious enough to merit hanging.
"They slaughtered those children, they did not kill them."
India is preparing to use its death penalty on two sisters, a case which will mark the first time ever that the country has enacted hanging on female convicts.
The two sisters are named Renuka Shinde, aged 41, and Seema Gavit, aged 36. In 2001 both were tried and convicted of abducting and murdering 5 children in the state of Maharashtra in Western India.
Initially, the sisters were each accused of the deaths of a total of 13 children, but evidence was only found to support 5 killings.
It was found that Shinde and Gavit kidnapped the youngsters as part of a crime and begging operation, whereby they made them beg and pickpocket to earn money.
When the children were no longer bringing in revenue, because they were not sick or little enough to draw sympathy and money from passers-by, they were killed.
This was originally uncovered in 1996, and Shinde and Gavit were detained during the initial investigation.
Their mother, named Anjana, was the one who reportedly began the practice, but she died as the case was still ongoing.
The Supreme Court in India has stressed the brutality of these sisters’ crimes, saying: “They very clearly executed their plans of kidnapping the children and the moment they were no longer useful, they killed them.
“They had become a menace to society and the people in these cities were completely horrified and they could not even send their children to school.”
Despite the obvious heinous nature of the convicts’ crimes however, it is now 13 years sicne they were first sentenced, and only now are they expected to face the death penalty.
Their lawyer, Manik Mulik, has been positing appeals throughout this time and maintains that he will file another appeal this week.
The President, Mukherjee, has rejected the women’s plea for clemency and the Indian court has decided to finally uphold the death sentence.
It has been a difficult debate for many in India, as some think that the death penalty should not be faced by women. Dhananjay Mahadik, who is the Member of Parliament for Kolhapur, which is where Shinde and Gavit are from, says that women should not be given death sentences in India.
Yet even he finds this case to be exceptional, apart from his general vies about the hanging sentence. He said: “The crime they were convicted of was very serious. They slaughtered those children, they did not kill them.
“They made them beg for them and they killed those children who knew nothing of this world. The court has ordered this and I agree.”
In India the death penalty is very infrequently used, with 435 people being executed between 2007 and 2012, much lower than the number in America.
Debates have been ongoing for years over whether these two women should be hanged, as despite them being female, their case does fall into the ‘rarest of the rarest’ category that India reserves for the sentence.
Human Rights Watch has said that though the pair’s crimes would merit the hanging under India’s law, the organisation believes that the sentence is ultimately inhumane.
Meenakshi Ganguly, from Human Rights Watch, commented: “The two women were convicted for crimes that the courts have determined meet the present Indian legal standard.
“We believe that the death penalty should be abolished because it is inherently inhumane.”
Shinde and Gavit are now expected to finally face the death sentence after a long fight, but the debate about the penalty continues in India and across the world.
It will certainly take international action and discussion to reach a conclusion on this issue, especially when such serious crimes as this one continue to be perpetrated.
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