I was horrified to see this show on NDTV. I watched it late in the night last night and I thought for a moment it was some kind of a comedy show. But I was shocked – it was a serious debate conducted by Vikram Chandra on The Big Fight. Should castration be a penalty for rape convicts?
So I watched the show again online today morning. Thankfully Vikram clarified that this discussion was triggered off by Justice Kamini Lau’s suggestion that castration should be discussed in public. A few minutes down the show, it also became clear that we were talking of “chemical castration”, not physical castration. Chemical castration is the administration of anti-androgen drugs by injection every three months to a convicted rapist. These drugs reduce the libido and keeps the rapist away from sexual attacks. But the show soon meandered onto physical castration. It’s not important which form of castration we consider.....the fact that as a society, we can even consider such extreme forms of punishment is scary. It’s the same as Baba Ramdev suggesting death as the penalty for corruption. If we extend this logic, we should be doling out death by the hundreds.....just like it happens in
China or . Saudi Arabia
A rape is no doubt a heinous crime. It’s one of the most pathetic crimes inflicted on women and I totally agree that we have very archaic laws in our country to deal with the crime. We need an overhaul of the rape laws.....and stricter punishment. But to suggest that the punishment could be castration is taking the country back into the dark ages. Or into the same league as the Middle Eastern and Taliban ruled countries. How is castration different from chopping off the hands of a person who is caught in theft? Or pelting stones at and killing women convicted of adultery?
Then there is the comparison with murder. Is murder more heinous or rape? In a society like ours, where a woman’s dignity is measured by her virginity before marriage and purity after, the panelist would have us believe that rape is worse than murder. In the heat of the moment, the panelists may feel so. And the audience in the show may agree. But in my mind, while rape is a disastrous crime, it’s no way comparable with taking away the life of a person. At the end of the day, while all crimes are terrible, we have to learn to grade them. In my mind, there is a huge gap between rape and murder. And let me clarify - just because I am saying that rape is not as bad as murder, does not make me a rape sympathizer! Any comparisons with the death penalty for murder is fundamentally flawed.
Besides, I have argued in a previous post, that civilized countries (with the only exception of the
....strangely) have done away with capital punished totally. I am strongly of the view that US should also ban capital punishment. Taking a criminal’s life is in many ways taking over the job of God. Our laws don’t allow for suicides or euthanasia.....on grounds that taking life away is not humane. Yet they allow capital punishment. The countries which have actually executed people in this manner include countries not known for liberalism and not the countries we would like to follow..... India China, Saudi Arabia, and the like. Do we want to be in this Iran League of Nations?
I think we are compensating the weaknesses of our poor criminal legal system with draconian penalties. Our legal system is amongst the world’s slowest. It’s probably also the world’s most inefficient. There is probably nothing called forensics in our investigating agencies. We saw in the case of the Aarushi murder, that neighbors and media people were allowed to trample on the crime scene, destroying all evidence in the process. Our courts take years to deliver justice. In such a scenario, people are angry. But instead of correcting what is wrong.....we could end up taking another wrong step. The judge should have sought a debate on how the judiciary should speed up its working. Not on whether castration should be considered. But then she doesn’t want to draw attention to the deficiencies of her own institution.
One other thing. I have argued many times that laws cannot be made by public opinion. Agreed, we are a democracy and the government must reflect the people’s views, but at the same time, we have also set out to become a modern, liberal country. Sometimes, it is important to go against public opinion and make reforms. If this was not done in the British era, we may still have been living with untouchability and sati in our country. Just because a majority of people supported these practices for centuries, should the government of the day have continued with it? If the majority of the people of
want to become a Hindu country, should we allow it? Should we consider public opinion in taking such decisions? Putting together a panel of shrieking women shouting vengeance is no reason for castration to be allowed. Likewise, it hardly matters what the public opinion is about corruption laws.....the laws cannot be made basis opinion polls. India
My view is that the justice system should be speeded up. Especially rape cases. And corruption cases. And so many other cases! We also need stronger punishment. 7 years is probably too less given the heinousness of the crime. It can be made 10-12 years. But no more. What we should remember is that 7 years or 10 years is a huge part of one’s life and its deterrence enough for anyone considering rape. The problem is not in the term of the sentence. It’s in the confidence the rapist has that the judicial system will take years to decide. This gives a sense of casualness to the crime. Also, the rapist believes that the “stigma” attached to the rape would prevent the victim from complaining. We still don’t know how many rapes are actually happening which go unreported. This is what we need to think of. We need to remove the stigma attached to rape.....and society must change its views on rape victims. This is where modern society and media must play a role.
In one way, NDTV did the right thing by triggering off the debate. But it should not have packed the panel with so many women (and one man) who all had the same view. Only Ranjana Kumari was arguing for sanity and as expected, she was being out-shouted. In a serious debate like this, what’s the need to have an audience which is expected to applaud every extreme suggestion made by the panelists? After all, not applauding, or taking a contrary view could be seen by many to be supporting weak rape laws. Who wants to be seen like that!
The real truth is that as a society, we are immature and emotional. We love extremes. And we like to wear our honor, dignity, patriotism, religiousness....everything on our sleeves. Just look at our Hindi channels. Every soap has a very easy-to-identify vamp and an equally easy-to-identify “honorable” heroine. Our society demands that our characters be identified clearly as being in one camp or the other. We don’t like the in-between. It’s the same with law-making. Our emotions often dictate what laws we have. If we went by the passion on the show, we should immediately allow castration. But if this happens, very soon, we will have a second “brain drain” movement....with tolerant liberal people leaving
and going to more tolerant countries.... India