Far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India, stated human rights organisation Amnesty International India, after a New Delhi court sentenced to death four men in the December 16 gang-rape case.
The court found the four men guilty of gang rape, murder and other related charges.
Tara Rao, director, Amnesty International India, while expressing her deepest sympathy to the victim’s family said that those responsible must be punished but the death penalty is never the answer
“Sending these four men to the gallows will accomplish nothing except short-term revenge. While the widespread anger over this case is understandable, authorities must avoid using the death penalty as a ‘quick-fix’ solution. There is no evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to crime, and its use will not eradicate violence against women in India.”
In April, the government passed new laws which criminalised several forms of violence against women including acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. However, rape within marriage is still not considered a crime under law if the wife is over 15, and security forces continue to enjoy effective legal immunity for sexual violence.
“Addressing this issue requires legal reform, but also sustained commitment by the authorities to ensure that the justice system responds effectively at all levels to reports of rape and other forms of sexual violence,” said Rao.
Authorities are yet to fully implement several progressive recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee, including around police training and reform, and changing how reports of sexual violence are registered and investigated.
There must be concerted efforts to change the discriminatory attitudes towards women and girls which lie at the root of the violence. These measures will take hard work, but will be more effective in the long run in making India safer for women.
Amnesty International said that it opposed the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.