How should the law deal with rapists?
If one is not a mathematician, the number zero is not important in itself, except insofar as it represents one’s bank balance, or fail marks in exams.
These days though, the word “zero” has taken on a much wider connotation. For example, I came across an editorial in the Dhaka Tribune recently on “Zero tolerance for sexual violence.” Human nature being what it is, zero tolerance seems to have had zero results in many cases worldwide. There is a general mood of impunity.
In almost every country in the world, there is what I would define as a testosterone club. It is a corrosive attitude which carries through the generations. Any woman with a good set of ears will have heard unpleasant jokes about women: Their looks, their desirability, their brains, and so on, ad nauseam.
Such humour is laughed off in an avuncular way, as guys having harmless fun, or indulging in “just locker room talk.”
It is not just locker room talk. It speaks of deep rooted physical and mental arrogance and a sense of gender entitlement and power in some men (luckily not all men), and it exists even in this, the 21st century.
If such locker room talk was just that, it would be tolerable. However, in many cases, these attitudes towards women translate into actual and very serious violence. Here I speak not just of wife-beating or child bullying or even just groping. I speak of incest, rape, and pedophilia inflicted frequently on both sexes and various ages. Sexual depravity is a perverted frame of mind that exists worldwide regardless of class, race, or religion.
In many societies, in the rare cases that such victims actually dare to lodge complaints, the authorities are frequently slow to apprehend the abusers, and often delay or avoid accepting visible evidence of violent abuse, even with DNA samples.
In traditional societies, the families of the victims often collude to suppress the crimes, in an effort to save face in society. In the case of the depraved who come from privileged backgrounds, money and influence are useful tools to escape accountability.
Courts and judges, and even some members of the police forces worldwide, are slow to arrest and prosecute in cases of sexual violence. When the victims go to court or to the police, they are made to feel as if they are to blame in one way or another.
Papers in South Asia are filled every day with tales of shocking sexual violence. Our new media mentioned that there are four rapes a day in our country. It would be impossible to guess at the actual numbers.
In the case of the woman in India some years ago, who was raped and thrown from a moving bus, the most vicious of the rapists was not executed because he was a minor. In such cases, the age of minority for violent crimes should be changed. If they are old enough to rape and kill so brutally, they are old enough to be executed.
In the case of the woman in Pakistan who was raped and had her tongue cut out recently, the perpetrators were arrested. I certainly hope to hear more on this.
The Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan mentioned that he suggested chemical castration. To my mind, in the absence of a desire to resort to capital punishment for such heinous crimes, many women, and particularly the relatives of victims, would prefer a more complete kind of castration: The kind which makes such offenses physically impossible ever again.
For those who favour jail terms as punishment, it is not always apparent that the sentences are far shorter than the gravity of the crimes merit, and soon the perpetrators are freed to commit equally heinous crimes again.
Sexual predators by definition lack a sense of decency and moral sense. A jail term alone, if what they say in the newspapers about jails is correct, puts such psychopaths in an environment which merely teaches them more novel ways to commit crimes after they are released.
People with wives, daughters, and sisters would, I suspect, support full castration, or speedy military-style trials, followed by speedy public executions.
Public executions would allow people to see and understand unambiguously the actual consequences of serious sexual violence. Hangings would be a short and simple way to convey the message the government would like to send out.
If there is irrefutable proof of crime, the criminal, whether rich or poor, well-connected or not, must suffer the consequences.
If we aspire to be a civilized and law abiding society, we must have a body of law that is an effective deterrent to crime, and renders justice and accountability impossible to avoid.
Nasrin Sobhan is a freelance writer.