Gallows for rapists

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In the wake of Kathua and Unnao rape cases, there has been an increasing clamour for death penalty for child rapists among certain sections of society. Bowing down to the mounting public pressure and to divert attention from the real problem, the Cabinet has approved the promulgation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018, which got the Presidential assent too. Apart from mooting harsher punishment for sexual offenders, the ordinance makes way for death penalty for rapists of girls below 12 years of age. The argument that harsher punishment can be a deterrent may not be self-defeating. But the real efficacy of the law, howsoever, stringent, lies in its implementation, which, as the conviction rates show, is almost abysmal.India is not new to the horrors of rape; both society and the government have occasionally been shaken by the gravity of the heinous crime. The national outrage that followed the Nirbhaya case in Delhi led to the formation of Justice Verma Committee. But neither the public anger over the horrific rape and murder of a young girl nor the Verma’s panel’s sagacious recommendations brought about the desired change. Rather, the incidents of sexual abuse have acquired even more horrific and abhorrent dimension. No civilised society or government can stand as mute spectators to these acts of bestiality. It is not just newspaper reports which are a constant reminder of sexual violence. The National Crime Records Bureau has reported a quantum jump in such crimes. No one measure, least of all the death penalty, is enough to ensure the safety of the fair sex — something that should be a given in a democracy. The other provisions being contemplated by the government, be it the formation of a national database and profile of sexual offenders or setting up of new fast-track courts, seem to have more weight and substance. Knee-jerk responses to individual incidents are certainly not the answer. The fight against the menace has to be sustained and tempered with zero-tolerance towards rapists. Justice has to be swift and just.

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