1. Home
  2. Whose Crime and Whose Punishment?

Whose Crime and Whose Punishment?

The recent spate of rapes and molestations, kidnapping and abduction, reported widely in various media are all stories of deep fault lines in our society. These and the ones that go unreported, must make our heads hang in shame. What has caused the fault lines and what has caused them to widen so dramatically in the last few years? Has the society really degenerated in the past decade? Have values changed so irrevocably that we as a society, are looked down upon? All crime must be abhorred, more so the crime on women, children and the weak, which is a crime against humanity and a crime that cannot be condoned whatever the reason be.

The age-old feudalistic mindset, poverty, unsavoury value systems, deep rooted dogmas in the society, and the desire to possess at all costs, tend to see rape, as less of a crime against a particular girl or a woman, than as a crime against the head of the household or against chastity. Rape, in the course of warfare, dates back to antiquity finding a mention in the Bible. Marital rape, was never recognised even in the English Law until 1991.

Various countries deal with such crime in a myriad way. The earliest recorded case of Chrysippus by Laius, in Greek mythology, was an example of hubris or violent outrage, and its punishment was so severe that it destroyed not only Laius himself, but his entire family. Sunni hadith, prescribes the punishment for committing rape as death. A year’s banishment, a prison sentence, a corporal sentence, are all seen as penalties that could be levied. Public beheading in Saudi Arabia after administering the rapist with a sedative may look barbaric and stroke a debate of eye for an eye leaving everyone blind one day. The French, Israelis, Russians, US and Norwegians all meat out various prison terms including life, depending on the extent of damage and brutality. The sentence for rape in China is a swift death. Castration is also used in some cases. The autocratic leadership of China could possibly carry it through but execution without a proper trial is just as savage. Korea kills their rapists by a firing squad. Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, kill theirs by hanging to death besides shooting in the head.

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013, provided for amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences. One would have expected this to be a reasonable deterrent. However, what we witness today is even more appalling. The anguish of recent events saw a new ordinance promulgated last Sunday, stipulating stringent punishment for perpetrators of rape, particularly of girls below 16 and 12 years. Death sentence has been provided for rapists of girls under 12 years. Fast track courts are expected to dispense justice without delay. Even as these ordinances are being promulgated, new cases are being reported. So, where do we go from here? The moot question therefore is, has the crime stopped in any of these countries?

The simple answer is No. The reasons are not far from being seen. Overburdened Courts palpably stressed Judiciary, poverty of complainants, lack of education in case of petitioners, powerful perpetrators, misplaced activism, inordinate delays, motivated advocates, vested interests, hostile witnesses and botched up crime scenes, all contribute to justice getting waylaid. The Courts may sometimes rely on circumstantial evidence as well. Criminal cases which are delayed for a considerable period, due to lack of evidence, finally may lead to the acquittal of all accused. Many complainant petitioners may even expire during different stages of the case and the surviving complainants may be unable to identify the accused either genuinely or deliberately. In the labyrinthine systems that we have, cause of justice is buried somewhere. The effectiveness in prevention or mitigation of rape or similar other heinous crime is, how effectively the case is investigated and how fast justice is dispensed with. The problem with groups who deal with rape is that they try to educate women about how to defend themselves. What really needs to be done is teaching men not to rape. Go to the source and start there.”  Justice has to be seen to be delivered if we as a society have to be respected.

Several researches have shown that when men are taught to be dominant and aggressive, it often leads to hyper-masculinity, and sexual aggression. Although the association between rape and pornography remains controversial, a number of studies have linked violent pornography and sexual arousal to rape depictions, violent sexual fantasies, rape callousness, and woman abuse. Alcohol abuse also has been identified as a strong correlate of college rape

Conflict as defined by A W Green, in “An analysis of life in modern society” is ever present process in human relations and is a deliberate attempt to oppose, resist or coerce the will of another or others. According to Freud and some other psychologists, the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflicts. In a society where people have to fend for everything from basics to comfort, will rebel sooner than later. Many manifestations of crime reduce to a subordinate position the one or the other party. Though normally violence is associated with conflict, it can occur without it as well. Hence the influence one has on oneself, with that endorsed by his peers, by his understanding, by his expectations, by his aspirations, and by the opportunity he sees for himself, he tends to indulge in activities that the society may prohibit him from doing. The thought that the society has been very unfair, will bring out latent criminal instincts, which if not curbed with education, wisdom, advice and maturity on the part of the people around, could lead to actual crime. Hence it is necessary that the differences in the society are evened out, and the troughs and peaks addressed with equanimity.

The process could lead to a truly egalitarian and probably utopian concepts. Children today grow in very competitive environments, are privy to a surfeit of information, that may be true or may not be true, and would like to go their way adapting to the strife around them in a way that they understand, leading to parent-child conflict, sibling conflict, man-woman conflict, employer-employee conflict, powerful-weak conflict or haves and have-not’s conflict. In today’s society, we thrive on performance, competition and perfection, which leads to an insidious increase in stress. Stress causes damage that is often underestimated, and it is a social phenomenon that should be closely examined and evaluated. Sometimes the moral norms are so broad in scope that conflicting parties can often claim similar norms to justify their separate demands, resulting in petty crimes that can easily escalate to more serious ones.

Prevention is better than cure, it is said. Can we use a little technology and be better off? The victim could easily alert one of the nearest “police post” or a medical facility by the press of a miniature buzzer with an embedded camera, GPS enabled, strapped to either the watch or the shirt that she wears. Pressed either manually or on impact, instantaneously passes on the location coordinates as well as streams pictures. The buzzer, biometric enabled, could even transmit victim data for verification. Innovative insurance policies and rehabilitation processes, would further augment both safety and quality of life.

Besides the agony and anguish and feel of a sense of false safety that the regulations bring about, what do we do? There is no “typical profile” of a rapist. One can only focus on the person’s behaviour instead of who he is in his community. It appears, with good reason therefore, that values in society, ingrained in its citizens, would go a long way in mitigating crime. Louise O’Neill writes in one of her very poignant novels “Asking for It”, “They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”  This archetype must change.

(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)