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Rediff.com  » News » View: Only murderers deserve to be hanged, not gang rapists

View: Only murderers deserve to be hanged, not gang rapists

September 11, 2013 13:34 IST

View: Only murderers deserve to be hanged, not gang rapists

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Amberish K Diwanji

Let not our current anger against gang rapes undermine centuries of wisdom. Because, in doing so, we may just be putting our women at greater risk, says Amberish K Diwanji

The photojournalist who was gang raped in the deserted Shakti Mills compound in Mumbai and her colleague who was beaten up and tied, and ended up a as key witnesses, are alive for just one reason: that the rapists, who had the two at their mercy, did not kill them. 

And the key reason that the five rapists did not kill them is because gang rape does not get the death sentence.

At a time when all and sundry are clamouring for the death sentence for rape, it is important to recall a cardinal rule of law: different crimes beget different punishments.

Gang rape is a horrendous crime that deserves the second harshest punishment, life imprisonment, or what the courts deem fit.

But the single harshest punishment, the death penalty, must be reserved for the single worst crime possible that one human can inflict upon another: taking a life in cold blood.

As an aside, there is a school of thought that asks whether hanging as a punishment is a deterrent and whether it helps, but since India is one of the few countries that insist on hanging for the “rarest of rare” crimes, let it be just for that.

To demand the death sentence for every crime, no matter how horrendous it is, cannot see the culprit hanging at the end of the rope. Gang rape is terrible, but is it the same as terrorism that claims hundreds of lives?

Let’s chew on that.

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Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Tags: India , Mumbai

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View: Only murderers deserve to be hanged, not gang rapists

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Amberish K Diwanji

The Delhi case is that of murder and gang rape.

The bigger crime here is the brutal assault with an iron rod (that later caused her death) and trying to run the bus over her and her male friend (attempted murder). She was murdered brutally and in cold blood. For this brutal murder, the four men deserve the harshest punishment that the laws of the land permit.

But having said that, let us be very clear: gang rapists cannot and should not be treated on a par with murderers.

That is what makes the Delhi gang rape of December 22 and the Mumbai gang rape of August 22 so very different.

In the latter case, the victim is alive, and despite the trauma (that sadly will last a lifetime) will hopefully return to as normal a life as possible.

This can only happen because she was not killed. Callous as this may sound to the millions of women who walk in fear on the streets of Mumbai and Delhi (and perhaps most Indian cities), murder and gang rape must be treated as distinct crimes.

In Mumbai, the victim and her male colleague were alive and able to report the case that led the police to crack the case in four days.

But ask this question: if the gang rapists knew that their crime of rape itself would get them the death sentence, would they have let them walk out? It is quite likely that at least one of the many rapists might have been tempted to kill them both if only to prevent them from complaining to the cops.

Thus, to place murder and gang rape at the same level, to give them the same punishment, runs the very possible risk that every gang rape might end up in the murder of the victim. 

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Image: A policeman stands guard near the crime scene where a photo journalist was raped by five men inside an abandoned textile mill in Mumbai
Photographs: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Tags: Delhi , Mumbai

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Amberish K Diwanji

Every rapist, knowing that his crime will send him to the gallows should his victim talk, will be tempted to kill his victim just to make sure that she never reports the crime. After all, we all know that dead men, or women, tell no tales.

Another point of view that is being tom-tommed by some persons is that a woman who is raped or gang raped is “finished” and hence the perpetrators of the crime deserve to die.

Such a belief only reinforces the worst of India’s terrible patriarchal views that presumes rape destroys a woman’s izzat (honour) and it is better to be dead than raped. It is a set of values that are better of decimated than preserved.

A rape is a terrible crime but let us not make it worse by presuming that the victim’s life is destroyed. Only murder does that.

Right now, some TV channels are busy getting public opinion on the punishment that the rapists deserve. But the rhetoric of the studio is no substitute for rational thought.

For centuries, different crimes were penalised differently. Let not our current anger against gang rapes undermine centuries of wisdom. Because, in doing so, we may just be putting our women at greater risk.

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Photographs: Nicky Loh/Getty Images

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