On August 4th a sentence was issued to the murderer of pregnant woman Poonam Litt. The sentence adds up to less than a ten year jail term.
It has been repeated by some members of parliament that pregnancy is an “aggravating factor” that judges have the option to consider when sentencing the murderers of pregnant women. Here is yet another shining example which disproves such a notion to be anything more than a false sense that the penalty for killing pregnant women will be have any greater severity.
Poonam Litt’s disappearance was unsolved for 3 years until the remains of her pregnant body were found in a wooded area of Caledon Ontario in 2012.
Poonam’s sister-in-law stabbed her to death. Poonam’s brother-in-law then helped his wife hide the body. Their father buried her body after it was dumped in the woods.
For three years they conspired to hide their crime.
In court it was found that Poonam was at home holding her two year old child when she was “stabbed in the neck” with box cutters by her sister in law. Her blood-soaked daughter had to be pried from her dead mother’s arms.
Her killer will serve a reduced sentence of 5 years, 6 months and 12 days. Although some news headlines stated she was sentenced to 12 years in jail, the killer was given credit for her pre-trial custody at a rate of 1.5 days for every day spent in custody prior to the trial. This adds up to less than 10 years in jail in total.
Her brother-in-law who dumped her body and attempted to burn it was sentenced to 7 years.
The father who buried her dead pregnant body is yet to be sentenced.
From the news articles reviewed, there is no indication that Poonam’s pregnancy was included as an “aggravating factor” for sentencing. If it was, it was most definitely not a factor that added up to any substantive increase in jail time for those responsible for murdering and disposing of the remains of this woman and her unborn child.
The question is – how can Canadian lawmakers collectively continue to do nothing to address such an issue that, by definition, is directly rooted in gender based violence? How can they ignore the fact that pregnancy makes women statistically far more susceptible to such crimes? How can they ignore that perpetrators of such crimes continue to not be held accountable for the reality such crimes have on victims and their families? How can they ignore the right to protection for these women? How can they ignore the murdered women’s right to choice?
Cassie and Molly’s law (Bill C-225) must be discussed, yet many of these lawmakers refuse to do so by perpetuating the notion that pregnancy as an un-codified “aggravating factor” (that a judge has the option to consider) is substantive enough even when, again and again, the sentences issued to the murderers of these pregnant women prove it is hardly a factor at all.
It is time for Members of Parliament along with the Justice Minster of Canada to address this fact.