Justice has prevailed, is the voice emanating from across the country after the four men, convicted of raping and murdering 23-year-old Nirbhaya were executed.

The December 16th rape and aferwards

  • The horrific incident: On December 16, 2012, the woman was brutally raped in an empty moving bus in Delhi and she died after battling for her life later that month. 
  • Justice J.S. Verma Committee: 
    • In 2012, reacting to the clamour on the streets for justice, the government of the day set up the committee to look into rape laws. 
    • The report, filed by the committee led to stringent changes through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, but several recommendations were simply not considered, including those relating to marital rape and police reform.
    • On the imposition of the death penalty, the government went against what the Verma report had suggested - that seeking such a punishment would be a regressive step in the field of sentencing and reformation. 
    • At present, repeat offenders in rape cases, even those that did not involve murder, can be awarded the death sentence. The Verma Committee had argued instead for rigorous imprisonment of a convict for life. 
  • The execution: A little over seven years later, the execution took place after the convicts tried all legal avenues possible to escape the punishment. 

Has anything changed? 

It is the fact that sexual crimes against women have not come down since the Delhi case. 

  • Death penalty not a deterrence: The death penalty could actually encourage the rapist to kill the victim. 
    • According to the National Crime Records Bureau report (NCRB), a total of 3.78 lakh cases of crimes against women were recorded across India in 2018 compared to 3.59 lakh in 2017 and 3.38 lakh in 2016. 
  • Wielded disproportionately against the poor: The tendency of the death penalty to be wielded disproportionately against the poorest and most marginalised and the lack of evidence that it acts as a deterrent against sexual crime blunt the easy, complacent idea of justice.

Way ahead

The gangrape and murder of the 23-year-old was a defining moment for Indian women and their survival in a deeply patriarchal society.

  • Ensure dignity and safety of women: It is of utmost importance to ensure dignity and safety of women. 
  • Focus should be on women empowerment: Where there is emphasis on equality and opportunity.
  • Time for introspection: By the judiciary,  government to ensure that capital punishment convicts not be allowed to manipulate the system to delay for seven years. 
  • Need for a collective resolution: Police, courts, state governments and the Centre should resolve to collectively remove loopholes in the system
  • Nirbhaya Fund: The Nirbhaya Fund that was meant to enhance the safety of women should be utilized properly.
  • Roadmap for women safety: The government should come up with a plan or the road map for giving safety and security to the women of this country.
  • It is apparent that laws may have changed, but not mindsets. A society that endorses a preference for the male child has already condemned the girl child to an unequal world. 

Until Indian leaders, policy-makers and society shed the gender bias and the thinking that they need to protect women as a question of honour, there will be no stopping crimes such as rape, sexual assault and harassment.

Also readNirbhaya Case Convicts To Be Hanged On Jan. 22

Nirbhaya Killers To Hang On February 1

Image source: ToI