After Nirbhaya, We Had Hathras. HC Suggestion of Death Penalty for Gang Rape is Not Going to Stop Crimes Against Women

Gender

After Nirbhaya, We Had Hathras. HC Suggestion of Death Penalty for Gang Rape is Not Going to Stop Crimes Against Women

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

Earlier this year, the four convicts in the Nirbhaya gang-rape case from 2012 were hanged, ostensibly closing a painful chapter. But even though the death penalty was carried out, and covered extensively by the media, India’s women cannot be said to be safer now than they were before. In the wake of the hangings, there was no dearth of shocking rapes in the country, most prominently the horrific incident in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh. Now, while hearing an appeal by convicts of another gang-rape case from 2012, the Karnataka High Court recommended that the law be amended to include the death penalty in all cases of gang rape.

While there already is precedence for awarding rapists the death penalty in India, it was earlier meant only for the “rarest of the rare” cases. Unfortunately, rape is not rare, but all too common in India with 87 rapes being reported every day. The Karnataka High Court upheld the life sentence of imprisonment that a trial court had awarded seven men for raping a Nepali student in Bangalore in 2012. But the court also observed that gang rape is “more dangerous than murder”, and recommended that the government amend the law to add capital punishment to the existing penalties of life imprisonment and a fine.

Of course, given the brutal nature of these violent assaults on women, there is a desire to see the culprits punished in the strictest possible way. On social media, many users supported the court’s recommendation. Social activist Virender Puri exhorted his followers to amplify the message so that the government could take note and deliver on the recommended amendments to the law.

But before declaring this a victory, it’s worth mentioning that hanging rapists is not a complete fix. The Karnataka High Court also made a similar observation, stating in its judgement, “We hope and trust that the increasing gender sensitivity is crucial to enhance women’s safety. The safety of women is not a guarantee despite the stringent amended law is placed after Nirbhaya’s case.” The court also stressed the need for gender sensitivity, stating, “A child should be taught to respect women in the society in the same way as he is taught to respect men. Gender equality should be made a part of the school curriculum.”

Only when preventing rape is given equal importance to punishing rapists, will India start to finally make headway in tacking its problems with sexual violence.

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