Bold Move

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 03 Dec 2017 10:45:43

There are several countries where capital punishment is awarded to rapists unconditionally, and in those countries, there are drastically low incidents of rape and abuse. It is the fear factor that works

THE Madhya Pradesh Council of Ministers under the prerogative of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan recently passed the proposal for amendment of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to make provisions for harsher punishment for rape, molestation, stalking and sexual harassment. This comes in the wake of a string of sexual crimes across MP, including rape of minors. The CM called a Cabinet meeting recently to approve the introduction of a Bill to hang those convicted of raping a child aged 12 or younger. It was nearly eight months ago that Chouhan had called for death sentence to rapists. 

The recommendation is to impose a fine of Rs 1 lakh for such crimes in addition to harsher punishment for stalking, harassment and rape, and capital punishment for those convicted of rape and gang rape of children aged 12 years and below. However, legal experts say it is a long way before the MP Government’s wish turns into law. Since it involves the death penalty, it may have to be passed by both houses of Parliament. If such a law is passed eventually, it will be a big turning point in the way we see, handle and manage rape incidents.

Such a stringent rape law, which has long been sought by victims and their families and other women’s rights groups, will act as a big deterrent and control the amorous adventures of wayward youth. When education, awareness and corrective measures are not making the cut and neither it is possible to restrict the movement of girls and women in a free modern society, the only way out to tame the imbecile is to hang them. There are several countries where capital punishment is awarded to rapists unconditionally, and in those countries, there are drastically low incidents of rape and abuse. It is the fear factor that works.

In India, due to our democratic values and concern for human rights, drastic measures against rapists are hardly taken, and there are several legal loopholes as well as safeguarding conditions that always leave a breather for the culprit to make use of and escape. There should be no mercy for the rapist as there can be no meaner crime than destroying a weak and vulnerable human being for sheer self-gratification. There can be no justification, no excuse and no reasoning which could make this crime any less inflictive.

Rape is often a fully pre-decided, pre-medicated action that does not happen impulsively and thus is well within the control of the perpetrator to tame his passions. It is only a deliberate action that comes from a frustrated ego that has not developed fully, and the male chauvinism remains pent up in an undeveloped, inchoate form that finds manifestation in such dastardly acts. Such people are sick and animalistic and have no right to coexist with normal and decent human beings in a civilised society. They need to be banished if we want to see our sisters and daughters safe. The problem is not just about the law. The harshest law may be in place but what we also need is better investigation and accountability by the police. It is the low rung local level cops who botch up the probes, and the culprit by money or muscle power have all the opportunity to escape. Unless we have better policing and prompt and fair handling of rape cases, just laws can’t do much.

If the case is already weakened before it reaches the court, the victim has already lost it. Therefore, even the laws we have don’t get a chance of diligent application and foolproof implementation due to police laggings.  As a basic building block, the Government first needs to sensitise the police and make them more citizen-oriented rather than criminal oriented. Political intervention in policing has to go, and there must be time bound probes where the wrongdoers or derelict cops should get their rightful due.

First, we have to set our own house in order before taking on the world. Perpetrators and criminals are not aliens; they are very much a part of our immediate society and roam around us and exist with us. It is not very difficult for the police to track and nab them if they have a free hand and the right logistic support. In most cases, they don’t have either.

The Government first needs to plug that lacuna. Social reformation has much to do with police reformation; a safer society means a better law and order, which simply comes down to effective policing. If there is honesty and transparency and better citizen connect, we can do much better. As long as a rape victim fears to go to the police station with a complaint, rape will continue. As long as the police don’t come out to proactively support and save a victim, no perpetrator will ever feel insecure. Rape has become a social trend today, and no one in power seems to bother. Every new incident creates some brouhaha and then it is forgotten, and the police go back to their normal work culture.

If there is constant Government monitoring of policing deficiencies and an earnest effort to correct them, it is very easy to reverse the ignominious trend that tarnishes our country’s global image. Human rights activists who cry hoarse against capital punishment must revisit their stance and gauge the pain of a rape victim and the scar and the trauma the family and the person carries all their lives.

It will do good if capital punishment is done away with in general and reserved exclusively for rapists. This will enhance the seriousness of the punishment and send across the message that will accentuate the intensity of the crime.
Not just for the rape of 12 years or less, any rape being rape, the punishment should be equal for every rape and across ages. Even a minor convicted in such a crime must at least get a life term. A 17-yr-old for instance, though officially a minor, knows very well what rape is and if it should be done or not. Sending him to a remand home as per the law is a waste.

The Government should also revisit the age criteria for considering a culprit a minor and in cases of heinous crimes, the age can be lowered to 16 as many countries have done. Also, the abundance of booze shops in every street corner is a big abetter of crimes. People in hoards come out intoxicated of these ‘bars’ till late in the night, and no one knows what they do thereon.

The Government must also regulate and control their rampant mushrooming so that drinks are not so easily accessible at will. Such widespread availability is bound to have an adverse effect on the societal culture, especially in a country where illiteracy and ignorance rule high and policing is nothing to write home about. The need for legal rigidity and stricter laws is only one of the cogs in the wheel.

By the way, we need to set right several coordinates simultaneously in the administrative working to help the legal arm help us and keep the wheel of civilisation moving in the right direction. It is a delicate balance wherein the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, and all have definitive roles to play. If one of these abdicates, the wheel is bound to wobble and derail social peace and security.