Death Penalty for the 3 guilty Shakti Mills rape perpetrators

The three perpetrators found guilty in Shakti Mills Rape case were sentenced to death yesterday, April 4th 2014.

Opinions are divided on the verdict, the Facebook pundits growling in joy while most of the feminist organisations are opposing the death penalty.

Flavia Agnes’s excellent article on the regressiveness of the penalty here.

We had this discussion last April in context of Nirbhaya rape and murder case. Even if you don’t read the post do read Kavita Krishnan’s comments. They succinctly summarise why death penalty doesn’t achieve any concrete results in reducing sexual crimes.

And here on the Nirbhaya case verdict which also sentenced perpetrators to death.


Delhi Gangrape case perpetrators sentenced to death..

The four men who raped and killed the 23 yr. old student in Delhi, in a highly publicized December 2012 case have been sentenced to death. I have no doubt you have already heard about it, from news channels, to FB statuses to neighbourhood kattas. From elected political leaders, to common Indian people, the news is like a poetic justice to the horror inflicted on a common Indian, whose only crime was to be a woman.

I am not sure death sentence is the answer though. It is a great closure to the mass angst, but in reality, death penalty does not ‘deter’,or ‘put the fear of law’ in the minds of potential criminals .

Very often the popular sentiment of ‘revenge’ against the injustice sates the mass anger with a symbolic, flagship gesture.

To quote Kavita Krishnan from this article, “The real problem we face in sexual assault cases is the abysmal rate of conviction.” The figures are depressing to say the least. Out of almost 1.3 lacs of trials, a shocking 1.1 lac cases are still pending according to the National Crime Record Beureu.

And what about the fact that most rapes are committed by people known to the victim? The media coverage and popular reactions in the recent months has given rise to the myth that rapes are committed in dark places, at odd hours, by strangers ONLY. This could lead to restricting women’s participation in public places, not to mention reinforcing a very limited view of reality.

While we are celebrating death penalty, what about demanding change in laws that refuse to legislate marital rape because it will harm the ‘institution of marriage’? We are talking about changes that were demanded and rejected in 2012!! What about sexual harassment at workplace? What about the fact that 3 Dalit women are raped every day and the judiciary is unwilling to treat it as as a violation of SC/ST PoA Act? Are we saying that some rapes deserve highest punishment while others are ok?

The popular sentiment is no doubt guided by an outrage and a genuine sympathy for the woman who lost her life because she was a woman. No doubt this case has been the most powerful catalyst in recent times as far as mass opinion about sexual violence in India is concerned. No doubt the perpetrators deserve punishment. No doubt we, as a society and as a law and order system need to put women’s safety in top priority list.

But I am not sure if the euphoria from the death penalty is the answer. It definitely shouldn’t serve as a collective ‘revenge’ that will sate the mass anger, while millions of women go on suffering violence that is not ‘recognized’ by their country.

Akshay Kumar says hang the rapist. Kavita Krishnan recommends Gender – Just laws. I know she is right, but my heart says otherwise.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of The All India Progressive Women’s Association is one of the foremost Human Rights (feminist) activists in India today. She is most popularly known as one of the movement leaders protesting against the rape & death of a medical student in December 2012. There is a lot to her activism other than these particular protests, but undeniably these protests have made her face familiar across nation as one of the most credible and lucid champions of women’s rights.

I always follow Kavita’s interviews and public appearances with great admiration. ( She was my senior at University, and we freshers used to have quite a crush on her for her firebrand activism, which stood out even in our radical political hotbed Univ. ) Her courage, grasp of complex issues and relentless devotion to the cause have huuuugely contributed to India’s recent mass scale awakening to Gender justice.

So when she maintains that Gender -Just laws are required as solution to sexual violence rampant in India, and not Death Penalty, I trust her to know what she is talking about. Especially since she echoes the findings of the worldwide human rights’ organizations working with gender related issues.

But, I must confess, that I am torn. I usually agree with people who oppose death penalty, but frankly speaking I am not that Kattar on either side: Pro-death penalty or Anti-death penalty. I am torn whenever I hear of particularly horrendous crimes which involve brutality of a particular scale. Like this rape of a 5 year old. The details are too gory and incite primal emotions in many people to just crush the perpetrator.

I am torn, between my trust in Kavita/ organizations working for women’s rights , and the desire to put an end to the monstrous evil by death.

When something like this brutal rape and assault of a 5 year old girl happens, my rational mind goes for a ride and nods vehemently in agreement with Akshay Kumar, who demands, like millions of angry Indians, the public hanging of the rapist of the 5 year old girl.

I am not sure if I trust Akshay Kumar to have a complex grasp of sexual violence in our society. Nope. In fact he for me is one the poster boys of Bollywood sexism. He is the last person I would consult if I am perplexed about an issue related to gender. But, I have to admit that his interview gave voice to my inner feeling of ‘PUT THE F***ER TO DEATH.. HANG THE F***ER PUBLICLY… PUT THE F***ER IN HELL..”

What Kavita says is bang on : “The question we need to ask about sexual violence laws is not ‘Are they severe enough?’ but ‘Are they gender-just enough?’ and ‘Are they firmly grounded in a recognition of women’s inalienable rights?’. Countries like Saudi Arabia have death penalty, death by stoning etc, but women there are denied equality and rights as citizens!”

But Akshay’s logic is quite appealing too : “Hang the rapist publicly, without further delay; set an example,” he says.

What do you guys think? I might lean towards Kavita when I am able to “think” rather than “react”. But right now, I am confused. Frankly. What do you guys think?