In the context of increasing numbers of rape, on many occasions, the so-called 'cross-fire' and death penalty tend to come up as two apparently viable options for addressing the offence of rape.However, a demand for both of the above, masks the real problem underlying the crisis and have their own shares of problems.
In the wake of an increasing number of incidents of rape, recently, the President promulgated an ordinance increasing the maximum punishment in rape cases to death penalty from life imprisonment. It took immediate effect and amended Section 9(1) of theWomen and children Repression Prevention Act, 2000 prescribing death as the highest punishment for the offence of rape. Section 9(2) of the aforesaid Act prescribes the punishment of death penalty or imprisonment for life for the rapist, if in consequence of rape or any act by him after rape, the victim dies.
It is to be mentioned that, previously, the highest punishment for rape was life imprisonment which is a strict punishment itself. Now the question arises, in spite of provisions of strict penalties under law, what was the reason behind the increase in the number of rape? And the answer is- the prevailing culture of impunity. Due to social stigma, threats by the offenders or local political goons, and delay in litigation process, many victims and their families prefer not to report incidents of rape.Many incidents of rape remain unreported or untried.Due to various legal and institutional factors e.g. lack of evidence, delay in sending the rape victim for forensic examination, faulty and biased investigation, the rate of conviction and punishment in rape cases is very low. That means, in majority of rape incidents, the rapist gets away unpunished. This culture of impunity gives confidence to the rapists to repeat the heinous crime and potential rapists to actually commit the crime.
On the other hand, extrajudicial killing in the name of 'crossfire' is not only illegal but also unconstitutional. Extrajudicial killings violate Articles 27, 31 and 35 of the Constitution, which guarantee, for every citizen, equal protection of law, the right that no action detrimental to life, liberty etc. shall be taken except in accordance with law, the right to be punished only upon a public and speedy trial by an independent and impartial court.
In order to abolish the culture of rape from the society, we need to get rid of the culture of impunity. In this regard, the society, the political parties, the law enforcement agencies, and the court, all need to perform their respective duties properly. Alongside implementing the existing laws, the victim and the witness should be given protection so that they can give their statement without any hesitation and fear. The society must stop victim blaming. Instead,we need to focus on our moral education and stand by the rape victims so that they can get justice.
The court must strive to ensure speedy disposal of rape cases. By abolishing the culture of impunity, we can build a society where our children and women will feel safe. Neither death penalty nor extrajudicial killing can actually be an answer in this regard.
The writer is student of Law, North South University.