So be it but …

+100%-

A debate rages today across the country regarding the new laws enacted by the Government to strengthen the existing POSCO Act. The main point of debate is whether the death penalty acts as deterrence against rape and murder of children ~ indeed against any heinous crime. The evidence across the globe shows that death penalty is certainly no deterrence. Why? Experts on the issue cite numerous factors and from all these factors we can glean two main factors ~ (1) the atmosphere, environment and family value-system that impact on the psychology and thought-processes of an individual, and (2) the patriarchal value-system, ideology and ethos that impacts on an individual to perceive children and women as secondary human beings and as objects of sexual gratification. Both these factors spawn and encourage a strong sense of entitlement. However, in India there are also other factors that impede delivery of justice to rape and murder victims ~ the Unnao and Kathua incidents are clear evidence of that. In fact, Unnao and Kathua have been replayed repeatedly for a very long time. So, the question is: how potent is death penalty as deterrence, as also in nabbing the culprit(s) and allowing the due process of law to take its own course in the first place. I will not argue for the human rights vis-à-vis the death penalty in defense of perpetrators of these crimes against women and children because the very minute such crimes are committed, the perpetrator(s) ceases to be human and loses all claims to human rights. In fact, because the victim’s human rights have been violated, the perpetrator(s) must be punished and awarded the most rigorous penalties ~ if death is the answer, so be it. But the problem here is the widest of gaps between arresting the culprit(s) and allowing the due process of law to take its own course, culminating in death penalty. So, the question is: how to remove this gap so that justice is meted to the victims? Then again, there are other factors besides Unnaos and Kathuas, which saw the involvement of political patronage and the weight of the state lending support to the culprits until the Courts came down heavily on them. Societal pressures particularly in the form of stigmatization also hinder the reporting of rapes and murders ~ besides other heinous crimes. Statistical evidence indicates that most rapes are committed by family members, family friends, neighbours and others known to the victim but most such cases are unreported. Why? Law enforcers, lawyers, gender and human rights activists and experts dealing with all aspects of rape cases assert that fear of stigmatization, other repercussions and economic compulsions, etc., force victims and their family to remain silent. Under the circumstances, what does the death penalty mean to perpetrators? Knowing that family, friends and neighbours and others fully aware about their crimes would remain silent, the perpetrators roam freely and with impunity committing more such crimes. How does the Government plan to deal with these aspects of the crime of rape? Then there is also another dimension to the death penalty ~ it is punitive, not preventive. Certainly, the focus of attention should be more on prevention? Why should the Government remain silent till rape is committed? The need of the hour is for the Government to take measures to prevent rape from happening. As you may have noticed, most of the measures the Government had announced the other day to strengthen the POSCO Act, as also to curb rapes, are post facto. Besides, there are always several slips between the lip and the cup as far as all measures to contain and curb any crime. Not to speak of the abysmal human resource lacunae in dealing with these crimes, besides forensic requirements, etc., modernization of crime detecting and solving ~ in fact, modernization of our Police Forces, are a far cry in the country even as India boasts of the strides made in science and technology, IT, etc. Consider the fact that even in this day and age, so much publicity is craved for and created when a camera is given to a police personnel on duty but there is screaming silence about our police personnel living and working in the most appalling conditions ~ and not just in Nagaland. Inarguably, the Government needs to do more to address the issue of the increasing incidences of rape in the country, with exacting emphasis on preventive measures.