Is death penalty truly a deterrent?
A Delhi court has fixed a date, January 22, to hang the four individuals convicted in the rape and murder of a young paramedical student in the Capital in December 2012. Many will agree with the sentiment of the victim’s mother when she says that “their hanging will serve as a lesson to anyone who even thinks of harming women”. This will allow the parents some closure and may give them a sense of justice being served. But shorn of sentiment, the decision will do little to curb sexual violence.
The law against sexual violence was strengthened following the recommendations of the Justice JS Verma committee, which was set up after the Delhi gang rape. But, sadly, there has been an increase in rape and molestation cases, with a low conviction rate to boot. The only way out is to strengthen the criminal justice system. There is often an inexplicable delay in filing FIRs in rape cases. The survivor, already batling the stigma associated with rape, faces major challenges in getting her complaint recorded and securing medical help. Then there is the question of collecting evidence, which must be done within 24 hours of the crime, but is not done in many cases. The fact that many cases fall apart thanks to these shortcomings of the criminal justice system is what emboldens rapists, and explains why the National Crime Records Bureau data shows a high figure for repeat offenders. The Verma committee also emphasised the need to fast-track rape cases, especially when the victim is a minor. Alongside, survivors need counselling and access to crisis centres. The fact that even the fund set up for victims after the Delhi gang rape has remained underused for years suggests that nothing much has changed.
After the rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kashmir, the law was amended to hand down capital punishment to those found guilty of raping a child below the age of 12 years. However, this has done little to prevent such crimes against children. The hanging of the four Delhi criminals may be seen as a triumph for the criminal justice system by many, but it will do little to make India safer for women.