Skip to main content

Feminists oppose death verdict to rape convicts: 'Politicians capitalising on pain'

Counterview Desk
Following dismissal of the curative petitions filed by two convicts in the December 2012 case, feminists from across the country issued a statement to appeal to the President of India to stop the execution of all four persons convicted in the case. The signatories included organisations working on women and children’s rights as well as queer and trans rights, disability, environment and other people’s movements.
Among the individual signatories are leading names on women’s rights such as Uma Chakravarti, Veena Shatrughna, Indira Jaising, Nivedita Menon, Lalita Ramdas, Mary E John, Rachana Mudraboyina and others; children’s rights activists and groups; writers and artists such as Gogu Shyamala and Sheba Chhachhi, senior journalists Pamela Phillipose, filmmakers Anand Patwardhan, Nishtha Jain, and hundreds of others.

Text:

As individuals and groups who have been engaged in the struggles for women’s rights, safety and justice, it is often presumed that we would support the demand for death penalty for sexual assault.
But for decades, even as we have consistently fought to make the world safer for women through changes in policy and law, and social awareness by breaking the silence on these heinous crimes, we have consistently argued against the death penalty for sexual assault, as well as, all other crimes.
In the light of the death warrant being issued on 7 January 2020 against Akshay Kumar, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta, and Mukesh Singh convicted of the brutal assault, gangrape and murder of a 23-year old medical intern in Delhi in December 2012, we reiterate our position against the death penalty.
We understand the inexorable pain of the parents and other loved ones of women and children who are raped and, in many cases, killed. However, efforts by politicians and parties, courts and other vested interests to capitalise on their pain and make the case a matter of the nation’s honour, give false hope that the harshest punishment of death will prevent all such cases in the future.
The bare truth is that even after the Indian state executed Auto (Gowri) Shankar in 1995, Ranga and Billa (Kuljeet Singh and Jasbir Singh) in 1982, and Dhananjay Chatterjee in 2004 for rape/s and murder, sexual assaults and killings continue unabated.

We are against the death penalty because:

  1. The death penalty is not a deterrent against crimes, as evidence from across the world shows. In America, where the use of the death penalty varies between states, homicide rates of states with the death penalty are 48-100% higher compared to states without it. Studies in Canada have illustrated that homicide rates remained significantly lower after abolition of the death penalty. And a 2018 multi-country study across 11 nations which have abolished capital punishment also affirms the same. 
  2. There is no short cut to justice and safety. The death penalty often becomes a short cut when, in fact, there is a need to focus on long term social change, and the State’s failure to ensure the security of women. The only way to stop such crimes is the certainty that the criminal justice system will work with honesty, integrity, competence and fairness against every accused, irrespective of their social standing, power position, class, or caste. Instead, what the State is trying to do is to distract us by creating an ‘illusion of justice’, by selectively hanging people even as it protects others responsible for similar crimes. 
  3. Tragically, brutal sexual assaults occurs with frightening regularity and impunity in our country, especially against adivasi and Dalit women, workers in the unorganised sector, women with disabilities, hijras, kothis, trans and gender queer people, and sex workers. Additionally, during incidents of sectarian violence, women of certain castes and communities become targets of sexual assault, torture and murder. There have been, and continue to be, a large number of women similarly targeted in conflict areas such as Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, and Chhattisgarh. There is a need to understand the pervasiveness of this kind of violence on women and evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large numbers of men who commit, and get away with, such crimes. 
  4. In the December 2012 case, violence was meted against the victim by strangers, which has rightly triggered a wide discourse on women’s safety in public spaces. However, the majority of sexual crimes are committed by members of their family, neighbours, friends, teachers, guardians and other acquaintances. Not surprisingly, therefore, reporting of such crimes remains abysmally low. In all these instances, the process of seeking justice is severely stacked against victim/survivors, and the conviction rate for reported sexual crimes remains as low as 26%! Consequently, most perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of all charges which we believe is the greatest cause for the continued prevalence of such violence. 
  5. We are not anti-punishment. Rather, we are pro-justice. Let us remember that the Justice Verma Committee, which was set up immediately after the December 2012 incident, stood against death penalty for sexual assault, and as did the Law Commission of India in its 262nd Report on The Death Penalty in 2015. 
No matter how heinous the crime, we believe that every human being has an inalienable right to life and holds the potential for reform, if only the State and society will commit themselves to it, instead of baying for blood. In this case, the blood of those convicted in the December 2012 case.
There is no quick answer to stopping sexual crimes. We need to walk together on the long and complicated path to dismantling patriarchal and caste/community-based privilege, impunity and power, and the pervasive misogyny based in customs, tradition, law, the courts, government and society.
We hope the President of India will commute the death sentence of the convicts of the December 2012 case to a lifetime in prison, and in doing so, the lead the nation towards the vision of a society based on equality and justice, not revenge and retribution.
---
Click HERE for list of those who have endorsed the statement

Comments

Anonymous said…
People who are aware of such heinous crimes against women in our society, such as social activists or civilians take an effort to stop the crime and bring a change in our society. During British rule, Gandhi followers have fought for freedom through silence, but other leaders like Bose, Bhagat Singh, and others have opted for violence. Even though the paths are different the destination is the same. I feel that the same principle is followed here. Some activists are trying to solve the problem of Rape in the form of pro-justice and the others by demanding the death penalty for the Rapists. The whole concept is dealing with social awareness and the welfare of the society to bring a better India in the future on both the angles. The 300+ activists who hold a board on a protest against the death penalty or some of the civilians among the 130Cr population of India who holds a candle and makes a protest march for the death penalty own the welfare of the society as being a part of it. But we all don't own her pain. We can look at her condition, cry at her incident, pray for her welfare, and make an effort for her living. But the pain belongs only to the victim. She got raped, she lost her life and dignity. She had to bear the rod on her body and the intestines that came out were hers. She lost her blood, suffered from pain and wanted to live in spite of getting badly injured physically and mentally. How much ever we debate about the circumstances and options, we don't own her life and pain to decide what is better to do with the Rapists. You are right with the fact, whether the society would change and women would return home safely even if they are hanged. But my doubt is when men are being so horrible even after the knowledge of the death penalty that leads to them and their families' destruction, then what would happen if there is no fear of death and disaster of their lives? And regarding Nirbhaya, or Disha or any other woman, the victim is the only person who takes the pain. Not the ones who visualizes the event or their condition. If this is not justice for the society, this would definitely be justice for the victim who has faced pain in actuality. Sharing an Ideology doesn't mean sharing the pain or torture. I am always in the path of the destination leading to a better society. But I can't afford the restlessness I have to face imagining the state and screams of the victim(who suffered the pain) by going against the death penalty of these cannibals. I liked the concept of reform of somebody's life as a justice. I really hope even if the victims can get a chance to rebuild their lives and lead a prosperous life they deserve. One last thing I want to say is, a Mistake can be forgiven since it can be Rectified. But not a SIN that can never make things to normal.

TRENDING

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Why Bose's India Gate statue suggests RSS, BJP need violence-loving ‘Hindu’ Netaji

By Prem Singh*  In a TV channel debate, a BJP spokesperson and anchor shared and served a lie that Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's daughter in her letter to the Prime Minister has alleged that the Congress kept devaluing Netaji to further Gandhi's non-violence; because Netaji had taken the path of liberating the country through violence mode by forming the Azad Hind Fauj (INA). They also praised the Bombay Royal Naval Mutiny of 1946 to confirm that the country got its independence through a violent route. I stated that I have read the letter of Netaji's daughter, and there is no such allegation in it. But a lie told in the intoxication of power is bound to be blatant. Netaji's daughter Anita Bose Pfaff, even in the past, has already requested some earlier prime ministers of the country to bring back the mortal remains of her father from Japan to India. In none of the letters she has spoken about devaluation of her father’s role in the freedom movement on the basis of Gandh

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Is coal import dependence of more than 50% by 2047 of any relevance to India?

By Shankar Sharma*  I have read the article " Building Resilience in India’s Power Sector " by N Vedachalam, released by the Observer Research Foundation, with a lot of interest. I expected it to provide few useful recommendations to our authorities in charting out a sustainable pathway to green energy transition much before the climate catastrophe push our communities to the precipice. But I am sorry to say that the overall discussions or the message implied in the article disappointed me. I was expecting the article, coming from an engineer with past experience in the power sector, to discuss the much needed recommendations to put the power sector on a sustainable developmental pathway. But I could notice mostly technical jargon and a lot of statistical information, which may already be available in the public domain.   The article also seems to have simply accepted what some of the official agencies seem to have indicated as inevitable for the power sector in our country;

Government 'fails to take up' Indian migrants' unpaid wages issue with other countries

By Rafeek Ravuther, Chandan Kumar, Dharmendra Kumar*  The migrant workers were one of the most vulnerable sections during the pandemic. India experiences large-scale movement of migrants internally and internationally. After the outbreak of the pandemic, migrant workers continued to face injustice especially in getting wages in expedited manner. In the international context, India, the home of 9 million cross-border temporary labour migrants, carried out the largest repatriation exercise ‘Vande Bharat Mission’. Even though the Indian government addressed the immediate requirement of repatriation, it failed to understand and recognise their post-arrival grievances, like back wages, social protection etc. Recently many workers were deported from the middle- east region. Amidst the establishment of grievance mechanisms such as Consular Services Management System (MADAD) and helplines in Pravasi Bharatiya Sahayata Kendra (PBSK), the unresolved grievances remain high. The number of unresolv