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Op-Ed: Why capital punishment is not the answer for stopping rape

  • Published at 11:30 pm October 14th, 2020
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We need to figure out what is wrong in society and our institutions first

A recent bout of rape incidents has shocked the whole country into thinking anew about the problem. The country has seen fresh protests and demonstrations against rape and gender-based violence, and fresh calls for enacting capital punishment for the perpetrators of rape have taken the centre of all discussions surrounding rape. 

Some are even demanding crossfires for the rapists, which is a very sad development. We are already in a tough spot surrounding crossfire in this country, and increasing the number of extrajudicial killings can never be the answer.

But what of the demand for capital punishment? Firstly, it seems counterproductive to enact such a law that would hang the rapists till death because, then, rape and murder cases will reach a new heights. Because rape is such a crime where the principal witness is the survivor, if the punishment for rape is the capital punishment, then the rapists will never let the victims survive and leave a key witness of the violence alive.

Secondly, the crimes of rape are already woefully underreported in this country. If the punishment for rape becomes capital punishment, there will be more pressure on the victim to not come forward with a complaint and rather acquiesce with the criminals in hiding the occurrence. We also often see that the perpetrators of rape are from familiar bounds: Teachers, family members, and friends. 

In those cases, the pressure for hiding the rape incident would be even worse, because the known people would have leverage over the victim and his/her family to shut them up.

What we need instead is a total change of the system. Sex education needs to be introduced in early stages of education and be an integral part of education until the secondary stage. This is not difficult to do. Some changes in the national curriculum can include sex education into the system. Secondly, the concept of consent needs to be taught well to the students. All students must understand clearly that a no means a no. 

Most importantly, the power structure that breeds rapists must be dismantled. We often clearly see that the perpetrators of rape incidents are linked with the ruling party. As such, there may be a sense that the perpetrators would get away with their crimes because of their linkage with the power structure. Such a scenario not only breeds the culture of impunity within the country, it breeds germs of violence and makes the goons linked with the power structure think that they can do whatever they wish, and there would be no accountability for their actions. 

Solving the rape crisis is more difficult than it seems. Rape exists in the society not just because the punishment is not harsh enough; it exists because of systematic errors in the culture and society in general. Rape culture exists because of the lack of education and awareness in the society. 

We need to dismantle the toxic patriarchy piece by piece in order to stop rape for good. Capital punishment is not a magic spell that can cure our society of rape. We need to look inward toward our societal institutions to figure out what is going wrong and fix the causes of rape from the ground up.

Anupam Debashis Roy is a presidium member of Muktiforum. You can reach him at [email protected]

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