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India Debates Capital Punishment for Rape

Delhi, with its dubious distinction as the ‘rape capital’ has witnessed another tragedy of sexual violence on a 23 year old woman (see Global Voices report), that has led to wide spread protests in and around the capital and the country. Shocked at the brutality of the recent violence, people from many spheres are asking for stricter laws and harsher punishments and there has been vigorous debates going on about capital punishment for rapists, started out by a member of Parliament, Sushma Swaraj.

The issue of the current debate on rape and capital punishments is a complex one. The National Bureau of Crime in India reports staggering numbers of gender violence. This same year a two year old girl Baby Falak died due to injuries from abuse in Delhi. In India gender violence manifests in many forms from female feticide, ragging, eve teasing, dowry, rape (some of it is considered a norm in the society). India’s north eastern state Manipur has witnessed rape by its own army men and Manipuri women protesting with the banner, “Indian Army: Rape Us.” Among its parliament members, 369 faces charges for crime against women.

A highly agitated protester points as she shouts at police officers during renewed demonstrations following the gang rape of a female student on a Delhi bus. Image by João Costa Leão. Copyright Demotix (23/12/2012)

With such complexities as a society and such widespread abuse prevalent, the social media with its new found voice, has started massive campaigns, and the debate of Capital Punishment also rages including online petitions.

Stalin K Padma criticises a newspaper (Times of India) advertising for Capital Punishment,

The ad unfortunately perpetuates the notion that a woman's life is finished (‘takes away a woman's life') when she is raped! The severe social stigma attached to rape, promoted by ads and arguments like these, are singularly responsible for women committing (or attempting to commit) suicide.

To which Sakshi Soi reasons with the staggering numbers in Delhi alone:

We've been through all of these discussions earlier haven't we? This isn't the first rape case Delhi/India has seen. 600+ and counting in Delhi alone! How many punished? We demand death penalty because there is need for immediate action!

Protests at India Gate-007

Protests at India Gate. Photo by Flickr user ramesh_lalwani CC BY-NC 2.0

Aswathy Senan who has called in and participated in the protest rallies, comments:

Hope all this doesn't come to a point when we will need to hold another protest against capital punishment!!! I wouldn't hesitate to hold media as one of the prime forces responsible for making “capital punishment” the ideal punishment for the rapist!

Suresh Kumar comments on a Google Plus discussing the pros and cons of Capital Punishment:

നിലവിലുള്ള ശിക്ഷയേക്കാൾ കൂടുതലായി വധശിക്ഷ ഒരു ഡിറ്ററന്റാകുമോ എന്ന കാര്യവും സംശയമാണ്. അഥവാ അങ്ങിനെ വധശിക്ഷ കൊടുക്കാമെന്ന് തീരുമാനിച്ചാൽ തന്നെ ഇൻഡ്യയിൽ ഏതാണ്ട് നാൽപ്പതിനായിരത്തിലധികം ആളുകളെ ഇപ്പോ തന്നെ വധിക്കേണ്ടി വരും എന്ന് പറയപ്പെടുന്നു. അത് നടക്കുന്ന കാര്യമാണോ? അപ്പോൾ പിന്നെ ഈ കുറ്റകൃത്യത്തിലേക്കെത്തുന്നതിനു മുന്നെ അതെങ്ങനെ ഫലപ്രദമായി തടയാമെന്ന കാര്യങ്ങളിൽ കൂടുതൽ ശ്രദ്ധകേന്ദ്രീകരിക്കേണ്ടി വരും.

It is doubtful whether capital punishment will be a deterrent to the existing laws. The judiciary conducts itself in a very slow manner and as of now if capital punishment is issued, there are more than forty thousand people who will need to be sentenced. Is that even possible? So we would need to think what all steps and measures are needed in this society to stop such things from happening.

As the debate continues on Capital Punishment, Nirmal Harindran posted a Facebook status with a news clipping, which seems to have all the answers to this recurring gender violence in India.

Girl Child Abandoned in Delhi

Girl Child Abandoned in Delhi

I think our issues starts here…The Indian Express, Delhi 19-December-2012

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