|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Discuss if Death penalty is a solution towards ending violence against women or not.
Conclusion. Way forward.
A nationwide outrage over the series of incidents of sexual assaults of women has led to increased voice for death penalty against the criminals. Recently, Nirbhaya gang rape convicts were hanged. Since independence, 52 people have been executed in India till date according to Government of India Statistics. Whether death penalty provides justice or act as deterrence against crime needs proper examination.
Arguments in favour of death penalty towards ending violence against women:
- Retributive justice: Retributive justice honours the victim, helps console grieving families and guarantees that the perpetrator never has an opportunity to cause future tragedy.
- Rarest of rare case: The judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Bachan Singh vs. State of Punjab (1980) held that Death penalty in India can be given in rarest of rare cases like rapes.
- Deterrent: The idea of deterrence relies on fact that severe punishments like death penalty will deter the larger public from committing the crime.
- Punishment to guilty: A guilty must be punished with respect to the severity of the crime. Murder and rape are very severe crimes, death penalty must be imposed on such crimes.
- Prevents repetitive offenders: It prevents recommitting of crimes by repetitive offenders. Convicts of brutal rape and grotesque crimes are capable of repeating the crime after their prison term. Terrorists like Masood Azhar, who had to be released in a flight hijack situation went on to become the mastermind behind the terror attack against Parliament of India in 2001.
Arguments against death penalty for violence against women:
- Band-Aid solution: It is more of a Band-Aid solution and populist approach – instead of identifying the cause and working towards a more effective solution.
- Reformation: There are 3 major objectives of punishment i.e., retribution, reformation, and deterrence. The theory of reformation is based on the obligation of society to reform a convicted person. But this objective will be entirely defeated in case of death penalty since the offender does not continue to live.
- Patriarchy: At the heart of sexual violence against women and children lies the complex issue of a mindset of patriarchy and a culture of misplaced power dynamics that India and its law-makers have been unwilling to tackle at a systemic level.
- Retributive in nature: While capital punishment might provide the illusion of justice, it is purely retributive in its approach and does not look at offering any preventive solutions to tackle issues of sexual violence.
- Hostility: With the introduction of the death penalty, the possibility of the culprit turning hostile to the victim is very high. It reduces the chances of survival of the victim. For example, the death penalty would motivate rapists to do more harm to the victims.
- Wrong execution: As the death sentence is irrevocable, an innocent person can also be wrongly executed. There is no uniform and fair principle on the execution of convicts on death row.
- Non-effective: There is no sufficient evidence to prove that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than imprisonment. Notably, Brutal rapes in India have not decreased despite the enforcement of the Criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which prescribes the death penalty and life imprisonment for sexual assaults that result in the victim dead or being reduced to a persistent vegetative state.
Death penalty is not a permanent solution. India’s growing rape culture is best reversed by improving conviction rates via reforms in the police and judicial systems, and by increasing measures to rehabilitate and empower rape survivors. The government should allocate more resources towards establishing fast-track courts, more one-stop crisis centres, proper witness protection, more expansive compensation for rape survivors and the overhaul of current child protection services.