Not death but castration for rapists'
In May 2011 Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau had suggested to explore the option of 'chemical castration' as a punitive measure for the child rapists. She observed this while delivering judgment in a case in Rohini court in Delhi where a man was accused of raping his minor step daughter for four years.
Today after yet another brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old paramedical student in a moving bus in south Delhi there is an outrage from streets to Parliament. In Parliament the members across party line have demanded death penalty for the rapists. But the big question is - will death penalty serve as a deterrent for those culprits who commit a heinous crime like rape? It could be, but it is bound to have further serious ramification for the victim.
In Bachchan Singh case, the Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of 'rarest of rare' in 1980 and the crime that shakes the 'collective conscience of the community' to award death sentence for the crime of murder under Section 302 of IPC. In a country where the rape of a 13-month-old or an 18-month-old girl does not fall into the rarest of rare category, if it does not shake the collective conscience of the society then what would. By amending the IPC Section 376 to make rape punishable with death penalty we will further push the victim to be entangled in the tedious legal process spanning over years and endless harassment. With around 95,000 rape cases pending in courts across the country and an abysmal rate of judgments can we guarantee that death penalty would not further complicate the justice delivery system? Perhaps it's the time to deliberate upon the observations of Justice Kamini Lau.
We have a law that enumerates rape punishable with imprisonment from 7 years upto life term and fine. But still the crime of rape is rampant, obviously because of no fear of law. What we need now is deterrence and not reformative or preventive measures of punishment.
According to NCRB data in 2011 there were 2.8 rapes per 100,000 residents in Delhi. In Delhi a complex web of lapses allows the perpetrators of sex crimes against women to roam free. In a cosmopolitan city more than half of the police force comes from a patriarchal system those who are not sensitized to plight of women, specifically victims of crimes like sexual harassment and rape. A lethargic police force which has made its priority to serve the high and mighty does not believe in prompt action in offenses against women. In a city with high floating migratory population there is no social pressure at all. The culprits can very much find social acceptance and the victim is cornered by social stigma. Here everybody can enjoy seeing a girl being harassed on the streets and hesitate to interfere. The open border of the national capital region has made Delhi a free playground for the culprits. You can commit crime in Delhi and easily escape to the bordering Gurgaon, Faridabad, Noida or Ghaziabad and then the victim is entangled in chasing the multiple agencies to get justice. In such scenario what would stop the rising crime against women in Delhi? I again reiterate a deterrent punishment and let that be castration.
A rape victim is forced to live with an impaired self esteem for life time. The social stigma and lengthy justice delivery system adds to further woes of the girl. It's like the victim is dead by her soul. Then why we should not consider a deterrent punishment like castration for the rapists. I'm not advocating chemical castration that is to reduce the libido by administering medication. I'm for surgical castration or otherwise. Yes, why not. While the victim is forced to live with the social stigma let the megalomaniac culprits also be reminded of their ghastly act every time they think of committing crime against women. If it's about reform then I should not be writing this at all. While the victim is impaired for life by soul what kind of reformative or preventive punishment should we be talking for the culprits? The death sentence will be an easy escape for the culprits. But let the culprits live with the same social stigma as the victim does and let others be reminded of the punishment for a heinous crime like rape.
In western countries like US, Britain and Germany the chemical castration is there as an alternative punitive measure to punish the offenders of sex crimes. Why should not we explore this option or at least initiate a debate over this in India now?
Sometimes you have to torn your law books and throw it into dustbin, put your journalistic ethics into trash and flush your human rights values when your judicial system, well articulated television debates fail to deliver justice to the rape victims.
Death or castration or the timely delivery of justice but there must be deterrence for the offenders of sexual crimes against women. A deterrence to shake the culprits to the core before committing rape, can only prevent others from repeating such heinous crimes.
More about Sahasranshu Mahapatra
Associate Editor, Print Research