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Nirbhaya case: Amnesty says death sentence to gang-rape convicts will not tackle violence against women

By Our Representative
In a controversial statement, Amnesty International, one of world's foremost human rights organisations, has said that "far-reaching procedural and institutional reform, and not the death penalty, is needed to tackle the endemic problem of violence against women in India". Amnesty was referring to to the death sentence awarded to the four men, convicted of the December 2012 gang-rape by a court in New Delhi. The statement may trigger debate over validity of death sentence and whether it was awarded under the pressure of public sentiment.
The court had found the four men guilty of gang-rape, murder and other related charges on September 10. A 17-year old convicted in the same case was sentenced to three years detention in a juvenile home on August 31. Another accused was found dead in his prison cell on March 10. “The rape and murder of the young woman in Delhi last year was a horrific crime and our deepest sympathy goes out to the victim’s family. Those responsible must be punished, but the death penalty is never the answer,” said Tara Rao, Director of Amnesty International India.
“Sending these four men to the gallows will accomplish nothing except short-term revenge. While the widespread anger over this case is understandable, authorities must avoid using the death penalty as a ‘quick-fix’ solution. There is no evidence that the death penalty is a particular deterrent to crime, and its use will not eradicate violence against women in India,” the Amnesty statement reads.
It underlines, "Cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence against women are still common throughout India. In April, the government passed new laws which criminalized several forms of violence against women including acid attacks, stalking and voyeurism. However, rape within marriage is still not considered a crime under law if the wife is over 15, and security forces continue to enjoy effective legal immunity for sexual violence."
It further says, “Addressing this issue requires legal reform, but also sustained commitment by the authorities to ensure that the justice system responds effectively at all levels to reports of rape and other forms of sexual violence. The attention that authorities have given to this case must extend to the thousands of other pending cases of sexual violence in India as well. Authorities must take steps – including appointing more judges to ensure swift but fair trials in all these cases.”
The statement regrets, "Crimes against women are still under-reported. Authorities are yet to fully implement several progressive recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee, including around police training and reform, and changing how reports of sexual violence are registered and investigated. “There must be concerted efforts to change the discriminatory attitudes towards women and girls which lie at the root of the violence. These measures will take hard work, but will be more effective in the long run in making India safer for women.”
"Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution", the statement concludes.

Gujarat reality

The statement, significantly, comes amidst human rights activists pointed out that in Gujarat, where one of the worst communal clashes took place in 2002, no convictions of any kind taken place in hundreds of rape cases, and those responsible are still roaming around freely (click HERE to read report).
Mukul Sinha, a human rights lawyer, has pointed towards how Gujarat has one of the lowest conviction rates on rape. In a recent article, he has cited National Records Crime Bureau data to prove his point. He says, "Comparing the conviction rates for the states, the following numbers emerge: Delhi – 49.3 per cent, Gujarat – 15.3 per cent, Maharashtra – 16.1 per cent, Madhya Pradesh – 19.5 per cent, Rajasthan – 30.0 per cent, West Bengal – 10.9 per cent, Chhattisgarh – 22.8 per cent. All-India conviction rate is 24.2 per cent. The statistics further show that 14 states have conviction rate lower than the national average with J&K coming at the bottom with 7.5 per cent conviction rate. Gujarat comes at 20th position with 15.3 per cent conviction rate."
Sinha underlines, "Thus at the national level, hardly 24 per cent of the rapists are convicted with states like West Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat falling far below the national average rate of conviction. Without entering into the larger reasons like social, religious, economic that lead to the commission of this heinous crime on women, the total inefficiency of the criminal justice delivery system to swiftly punish the rapists without a high rate of conviction would amount to granting considerable immunity to the offender."
Other crime related data on Gujarat women Sinha has unravelled include:
* Dowry deaths – conviction rate is zero. Lowest in the country. National average is 31.9.
*Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty – conviction rate is 1.6. Lowest in the country. National average is 23.5.
* Cruelty by husband or his relatives – conviction rate is 3.5. Ranks 22nd in 25 states. National average is 14.8.
* Kidnapping and abduction of women – conviction rate is 6.5. Ranks 20th in 28 states. National average is 20.4.
* Insult to the modesty of woman – conviction rate is 20.0. Ranks 17th in 23 states. National average is 36.9.

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