A woman is raped in India every 13 minutes, according to the country's crime statistics but convictions are few and far between. Is the amendment of Capital Punishment stringent enough to defeat the rapidly increasing cases of rape?
In the last couple of days, the nation again has got up after a carefree sleep, awakened by the cry and weep of an eight-year-old girl in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur and in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir. The last time the country went to sleep was on 12th Dec 2012 after a candle march for “Nirbhaya” at India Gate. The current incident also showed a similar outrage and anger at the state for failing to protect women and children from sexual violence over cases of sexual assaults from various places across the country from Mandsaur in MP, Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, Surat in Gujarat and Nagaon in Assam. Seeing to this, the present government came up with an amendment in the section Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act relating to the rape of a girl child of below 12 years. The amendment says about the death penalty of the convict. However, the big question lies up ahead for the nation’s concern is -will the death penalty be adequate in stopping this barbaric crime? Even the Delhi High Court while hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the stringent decision, asked the government an elementary question: “Did you carry out any study, any scientific assessment that death penalty is a deterrent to rape?”
Looking into the global prospect of the punishment for this inhumane crime, currently, 8 countries have a death sentence for rape which now includes India. Bangladesh ruled a mandatory death punishment for rape on 2015 along with life imprisonment. But the recent data does not provide satisfying evidence to justify the rape incidents. According to the Home Minister, more than 17,000 rape cases have been registered in the past four years in Bangladesh. In the other neighboring country, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) says, an incident of rape occurs every two hours and an innocent victim is gang-raped every four to eight days (The Nation, 2015).
Rape has become another social evil in the society. Every time we are fed of news related to rapes around the country and the saddest part is, it is the women who are at the other end. Even after 70 years of independence and web of rules and regulations, women are not safe. Perhaps, women are nowadays more unsafe than ever. ‘Marital rape’ is again an issue which is less addressed in our society where ‘child marriage’ is still prevalent. In the name of marriage, girls are exposed to various sexual exploitations and become a mere sex slave. There is always a deep debate over the mindset that has been intensively developed in recent times. Rape can be understood as the display or dominance of power of one gender over another. The reason pertaining to these are many such as cyber-crimes, the culture of impunity, sense of patriarchy, alcoholism and delay in trials.
What are we doing to curb this heinous crime? Every year it is growing rapidly like a communicable disease spreads. The figures show that children (below 18 years) are victims in 30-40 percent of all the rape cases. In 2016, 43.3 percent of the total female rape victims were minors. About 13 percent of the minor female victims were 11 or below. A total of 19,765 cases were registered under the POCSO Act in 2016. About 55 percent of these cases were those of child rapes, that is, they are involved in a penetrative sexual assault. About 90 percent of child rape cases were pending trial in India in 2016, no more than 28 percent of such cases ended in conviction, and there is a 20-year backlog in bringing cases to trial (NCRB, 2016).
The new amendment in POSCO is a leaking pipeline. Human Rights Watch (2018) straight away asked India to withdraw the ‘Death Penalty’ amendment from the law stating that India should work towards abolishing the death penalty which is inherently cruel and irreversible, with little evidence that it serves as a deterrent. This social crime definitely needs a social solution and that cannot come from a verdict stating ‘all rapists’ to be hanged. All rapists here only refers to those who raped a girl below the age of 12 years. But, above 12 years rape is seen with a different angle with imprisonment as a punishment for 20 years.
Also, all these decisions will further grave the situation and condition for the victim. India is still not a victim friendly and supportive country, as a victim faces lot more trouble, embarrassment, trials, delays and insincere attitude than the convict. Think of a girl who has been raped by her relative, will this society leave her peacefully after the convict being hanged? The obvious response will be a big ‘NO’. Here, victim hides their face rather than the perpetrator, here we use the issue to shine our political agendas and every victim is looked up as a culprit.
This brutal activity must be taken up with utmost concern from the societal point of view. As we say, Home is the first school where every child learns the basic etiquettes. We need to start here. While teaching our child G for ‘Girl’ also say, R for ‘Respect’. Girls are not supposed to be objectified, this should be inculcated into every child’s mind. A basic parenting must include these because we are facing this issue in our time, let the future generations be unaware of this. Let’s give her an environment where she does not fear a human. Gender equality wouldn’t be achieved failing to this and so it further connects to the advancement of the society, and the human development index of the country. India has a collection of rich culture, let us put our efforts towards preserving our values and morals and protect it from being degraded.
Rasheed, A.S. (2015). A woman is raped every 2 hours in Pakistan. How long are we going to let that continue? The Nation: Pakistan.
Crimes against Women. (2016). Crimes against Women. Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India: New Delhi.
India: Reject Ordinance on Death Penalty for Rape. Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/24/india-reject-ordinance-death-penalty-rape (Accessed on 01 July 2018).
Dept. of Research and Planning,
Xavier Institute of Social Service, Ranchi