One more gruesome case of rape has been reported from Delhi. One more round of protests by citizens, and another round of promises from the administrative officials. The circle goes round and soon all these will be forgotten until this happens again.
This time, there is one change though. I looked at the photographs of the protests against rape and I saw many placards which had ‘death for rapists’ written on them. Even those who were silent when it was about terrorists like Kasab or Afsal Guru, have now come out in open to advocate the death row, regardless of the gender, religion, and locale. That somehow made me uneasy. Yes, the same me who thought that death row for Kasab was justified (but the discussions that followed after the Kasab hanging incident made me think about the issue of capital punishment again). So basically there are three things to discuss here. One is about rape and other such sexual crimes, the second is about social/gender inequality and the third is about capital punishment.
Rape and other such sexual crimes are committed against the ‘weaker’ section of the society (‘weak’ as in not physically or in a derogatory tone but how the society and the world order has made it). When we talk about rape, we usually refer to women alone but this category would involve women of all ages, boys, financially under-privileged (and thus less influential in the social strata) and dalits. All of them are easy preys for the culprits and a combination of any among these could make it even more dangerous than the individual parameters. For example, a lower-caste young girl stands a bigger chance to be sexually assaulted than a higher-caste urban woman. Or a financially under-privileged boy would make an easy prey compared to a boy from an affluent family. The culprits are looking for the weakest, and the weakest of them all are, generally saying, women and children.
When we dig deep into the roots of this issue, keeping the above points in mind, we would find that the problem lies in the social order of equality. A part of this social inequality is complimented by caste-ism which is why it doesn’t take to many candle-light vigils or death row calls and N number of public protests when we hear the news of a dalit girl from a rural area was gang-raped by a group of men. And among that social inequality lies an even bigger issue – of gender inequality. This is everywhere (though the world has moved forward a lot compared to the older times); right from the family, culture, community, religion, anything.
So to fight this problem, of not just rape but all such sexual or other crimes against the weakest is to standby and support the weakest and give them an equal space and rights. And one major thing to start doing in that direction is to change our attitude towards the powerless and that has to start from the family and the responsibility is on men as they are the major culprits in these cases.
When it comes to capital punishment, we can see that it hasn’t curbed crimes. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have to order capital punishment again and again. Hanging is more like a federal state taking revenge on behalf of the individuals. A lawful and civilized state doesn’t have to take care of personal revenge. It’s duty should be to curb crimes, ensure a civilized justice is offered to the victims and the criminals are punished. So the best way to punish a criminal would be to give him a life-sentence and ensuring that he serves his time in full. While in jail, his labor could be made use of for the betterment of the society. I understand that many people wouldn’t be supportive of this because we believe that the criminals would use the loopholes in law and would skip the full term and get back to society. But that is why we have to demand a stricter law and order that ensures a convicted serves his full punishment period. Instead of calling for blood and death and still call ourselves civilized.