Bandipore Rape Incident: A Case for Capital Punishment?

Vinod Chandrashekhar Dixit

Over the past week, Kashmir Valley has been witnessing unrest and protests over the rape of a three-year-old in Sumbal area of North Kashmir’s Bandipore district. It is clear that violence against the weaker sex brings out the manly demeanor of our society where oppression of women is deemed as a custom. While serious law reform is the need of the hour, it also should be taken into consideration that the planners, administrators, and law enforcement agencies work efficiently and diligently in that direction.
This diminishing social protection has made vulnerable, especially working and college going women in the city to crimes like eve-teasing, molestation and rape. It is noticed that the prevalence of crimes against women in a certain place depends on a large extent to the social ambience of that place. The punishment for battering, molestation, sexual molestation and unlawful threat must be increased. Projects must be launched for a better cooperation between the police, the social services and other relevant parties. Government should come out with much more essence and urgency to check the indecent behaviour against women folks, and the need to chart out stern measures on the part of administrative authorities for curbing down such events. People also need to come out with determination against such evils and not be a moot spectator wherein a daughter, or a sister, or a wife, or a mother is crying for alms.
One would find that the scenario for women seems grim indeed and this will continue so long as the basic social and economic structures remain unchanged and the implementing and law and order agencies show indifference. Public display of big hoardings only serves to excite the young minds. Laws alone cannot put an end to evils that are endemic in the social structure; the government can at least make some attempt to take its own enactments seriously. Crime is endemic to the human condition, but a crime specifically directed at one sex is most despicable and unfortunately, the one that is punished least. According to the Government’s statistics twenty five rapes are committed in India everyday but the unofficial record is in very large number. One would find that rape is a sexual as well as cultural attack which has become a great social problem today. There are many rape cases which have become the headlines of the leading newspapers but the timely actions are not taken.
It is obvious that there is much to be done to change our laws on rape. While Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code are the major laws dealing with rape, they have failed to match the international standards of addressing the crime. Making tougher laws will only be as effective as its implementation. Violent assaults, rapes and murders of women are symptomatic of a deep societal dysfunction. Any new law on rape should include the conduct of the defence lawyer and bar unethical questions against the rape victim. If an FIR is registered against a person in a rape case, he should be automatically disqualified from contesting elections. The prosecution for rape and sexual harassment should have toughest lawyers pleading the case to have 100% conviction and not one in over 1000 cases.
In view of the increasing incidence of the rape incidents, it is absolutely necessary to review the rape law humanely and progressively as the existing law is not only partial but also outdated. The subject needs a comprehensive review and should include various types of assault, violence and torture, and with gender neutrality. Indian women are far too vulnerable to violent assaults. Sexual violence in villages, though little reported, keeps girls and women indoors after dark. The pity is that to change attitudes to rape so many young women have had to suffer and die. An act the police never prosecute and the public ignores. Women are routinely groped and harassed by men on buses and trains. The reason behind is the vulgar display by even top grade heroines in the form of ‘item numbers’ has become a must for any successful movie. All these add to the frustration where the age of sexual maturity does not match with the permissible age for marriage. A piece of fool-proof legislation is needed to safeguard innocent victims. Before the dignity of more women is sacrificed, we need to have a real change for the better democracy, greater freedom, full transparency, strict law enforcement, and mandatory punishment for heinous crimes against women.

—The author can be reached at: dixitpatrakar@yahoo.in