Death for rape not effective: Activists

Amidst a clamour for death sentence for the men who raped a girl in Delhi last week, Civil society groups Monday opposed death penalty while condemning the incident.

A statement signed by Saheli, Jagori, National Alliance of People's Movements, Centre for Advocacy and Research said certainty and not severity of punishment acts as a deterrent to such crimes. "Death penalty is neither a deterrent or an effective or ethical response to these acts. The issue at hand is not the inadequacy of punishment but the fact that only 26 per cent of perpetrators are actually punished," said the statement, also signed by NAC's Aruna Roy and Farah Naqvi. It also said death penalty may even lower the existing conviction rate as it is awarded only in rarest of the rare cases.

Calling for a change in the prevalent social notions, the groups said, "The very logic of demanding death penalty for rape stems from the social belief that rape is a fate worse than death. This is a byproduct of patriarchal notions of a woman's honour."

Nandini Rao, an activist with the Citizens' Collective Against Sexual Assault, said voices of restrictions on women in a bid to protect them comes from such notion. "We are talking about a woman's dignity, her rights and not some outdated notion of honour or modesty, which is essentially why the clamour for death penalty has risen," she said.

The women's groups cited the 2004 torture, rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by Assam Rifles in Manipur and the abduction, gangrape and murder of Neelofar and Aasiya of Shopian in 2009 to question the assertion that giving more powers to state will reduce crime.

They questioned the retributive notion of death penalty by pointing out that an overwhelming number of women are sexually assaulted by family members, friends and partners. Besides, there is also the question of marital rape.

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