Crime Against Women
As long as the age and not the crime is the yardstick that decides the punishment, we will witness several juveniles emboldened enough to torment us.
The verdict in Delhi gang rape is out. The punishment of a three year term in a special home for the juvenile offender in this December 16 gang rape case disappointed everyone. A heinous crime has been overlooked and the age of the juvenile offender given consideration. Such a light punishment because the offender is a minor, even though he has committed a brutal crime is clearly injustice to the victim and her family. As it is, the most brutal of culprits has escaped with a rap on the knuckles, making a malicious travesty of justice. One is left wondering whether the sort of justice system that makes a clear differentiation between the quantum of punishment for crimes committed by adults and juveniles needs an unbiased relook. This verdict will send a wrong message to the juveniles, making it difficult to bring down the rate of crimes against women. In fact the juvenile alibi has actually been used recently by an accused in the gang rape case in Mumbai’s Shakti Mills. It is time to revisit the Juvenile Justice Act and amend it keeping in mind the seriousness of the crimes, rather than the age of the offender.
The Supreme Court’s recent observation that rape conviction rate is going from bad to worse, is frightening. It is distressing to note that only a negligible 10 per cent of the accused are convicted in rape cases. And this is without taking into account the number of cases in which FIRs are not registered or where the police don’t chargesheet the accused. Everyone thought that after such a widespread of public anger those thinking of committing such acts would think twice before attempting something heinous. But unfortunately such hopes have been belied. Such incidents didn’t end. Worse, the offenders have become more brazen and have little fear of law. And the Mumbai gang rape is the latest in the sequence of the ugly events. One can only expect a deluge of similar tragedies post this verdict by the Juvenile Court.
By giving only three years probation to the Juvenile accused in the December 16 gang rape case, the Government is only encouraging teenagers to turn to crime. It is a fact that children can be misled and need proper guidance, but let us not forget in a hurry the horrifying extent of the victim’s injuries. A person who can so savagely execute such a brutal deed without any premeditation is by all considerations aware of what he is doing. The question before everyone is that when a juvenile under 18 years of age is capable of indulging in crimes such as rape and murder, why on earth must he be protected under the Juvenile Justice Act? Just because he falls short of few days to complete 18 years, can he be looked upon as an innocent who needs rehabilitation despite the savagery he indulges in with impunity? In the face of such grievous crimes, these artificial distinctions must be abolished because of the propensity to help them escape. His light sentence will now enable this offender to stalk the streets in another 25 months and threaten public safety again. Moreover, it will embolden other criminal minded juveniles to indulge in similar crimes.
Crime against women is not merely a law and order problem. It is the complete failure and moral degeneration of our society. It seems hypocritical that on the one hand we project equality of sexes in society and on the other hand brazen acts of brutality have been coming to light more often than before. We need to have stringent laws to punish the rapists, implemented in letter and spirit. The law will act as deterrent only if we implement it irrespective of whether the perpetrator is a father, brother, neighbour or a minor. As seen in most cases, it is feeling of conquest that provokes men to behave like animals. Moreover misogynistic attitude is embedded in us. Our epics, which we celebrate, clearly subscribe to it. The acts of violence against women can’t be viewed as isolated incidents of violence in a society that has normalised exploitation and discrimination of the weaker sections. Shockingly, incidents of sex related crimes involving our so called Godman as well as members of political class too seem to be on the rise. Society needs to change the attitude and mindset towards women who are equal partners in this country’s progress and well being.
It is quite disturbing that in our patriarchal society victims of sex related crimes are given only lip sympathy while juvenile rapists are set free on the specious plea of being “Juveniles”. Some months ago the Supreme Court refused to consider a plea to lower the age of age of a Juvenile to 16 years. Even our so called rights activists have also fiercely protested every time the matter of lowering the age of juvenile offenders from 18 to 16 years has come for discussion. The Union Minister of state for home affairs RPN Singh’s recent statement that the Union Government is willing to debate the Juvenile Justice Act is indeed welcome news. The Government surely needs to make an example of the rapists, minor or not, by giving them exemplary punishment. And they must do it fast, because the laxity of law and delay in its enforcement is emboldening respects as never before.