Capitalising on punishment: Delhi gangrape

They were out in the streets celebrating after the court pronounced the death sentence of four of those who brutalised the Delhi gangrape victim.

Her father said:

"When I heard the judge pronouncing the sentence, I felt that I was breathing after nine months. Justice has been done. I am sure anyone even thinking of committing such a crime will now stop.”

Much as one feels for his personal loss and the family's trauma, capital punishment has never prevented crime. This judgement is political, just as the case had become. No ministers visit rape victims, or offer the family a house, or the brother a job.

As happens often, people take an example as a test case. Politicians and protestors are two sides of the same coin at such times. However, the court's explanation, besides describing the extreme nature of the assault (clearly, they do not know about other cases because they do not reach Raisina Hill), is disturbing:

Relying on a precedent set by Supreme Court, additional sessions judge Yogesh Khanna said, "the rarest-of-rare test largely depends on the perception of society as to if it approves the awarding of the death sentence for certain types of crimes. The court has to look into factors like society's abhorrence, extreme indignation and antipathy to certain types of cases, like the case in hand - of gang rape with brutal murder of a helpless girl by six men."

How has the judge reached the conclusion about perception of society based on a small group of protestors? Society has always abhorred such crimes because members of society are victims, and not some aliens. What does "certain cases" mean? The court ought to realise that all cases deserve apathy, all those who are violated, brutalised are victims.

The victim has been quoted as saying as she lay in hospital that the men deserve to be hanged. Quite natural for her to do so. She suffered. But, if the courts were to be pushed to pronounce judgments based on such dying declarations, and perceptions, then almost every case should get a similar verdict.

What about little children who do not even comprehend what has happened to them? What about inmates of remand homes and prisons who are sexually abused? What about villagers in remote corners?

This case has not made any difference at all, except that it fills up more pages, gives more airtime to rape. This has, in a perverse way, added to the 'sex quotient', and I say this with complete responsibility. The news of the death sentence has had a similar effect — it acted as a release.

And, why were kids brought out? Think about it. These children standing with placards with a noose in the frame are being inculcated into violence. Violence is not just about criminals, but also how the state behaves. To brainwash little minds is frightening.

There are very many aspects about the Delhi gangrape case where women's rights were objectified. I had written this in an early piece:

Jyoti Singh Pandey has been completely taken over by the public. Whether it was about giving her names or starting campaigns, it turned into a reality show. She effectively became a brand.

A month after the incident an organisation held a fashion show to create awareness about rape incidents. One of the victims was told by an actress in a benign tone “not to be ashamed, it is not your fault”.

It is not news that rape is about power, but it is also about abuse of a woman’s body. The logistics make it difficult for a woman to adequately fight back. Therefore, dwelling on her valour denigrates the discussion and makes it incumbent on the woman to be projected as a braveheart to commemorate.

[The complete article is here: Sexual Violence as a Brand]

Another fallout is that some among the elite are tired. Their precious snooze time had been interrupted. A socialite columnist who was on every major TV panel discussion holding forth on misogyny — and who has just expressed her views about the possibility of the RBI governor dropping his towel to feed lust — is now talking about how disgusting the jubilation over the verdict is. She was a part of the tamasha till it suited her. Now, seeing that the human rights people will raise their voices, and partially to reclaim her own lost reputation over the RBI guv piece, she decided to do her now patented turncoat act.

The verdict in this case is obviously not capital punishment but capitalising on punishment.

© Farzana Versey