Is the Death Penalty the Answer?

no-death-penalty-button-blog-13Image Courtesy: paxchristiusa.org

The death penalty has been raised around the world as a sufficient and much needed punishment for the crime of rape. The underlying belief is that such a tough punishment or national stance on rape will lead to diminishing incidences of rape and act as an effective deterrent.

Major human rights organizations, like Amnesty International have campaigned for years against the death penalty which violates one’s fundamental right to life. While I do agree that no court should have the capacity to take away one’s life, I believe the issue is more complex than that alone.

Let us look at China for example. According to a study conducted by US-China Today entitled: Rape in China, only 1 out of 10 cases of rape is likely to be reported. Furthermore, the study concluded that while the majority of us would like to believe that the perpetrators of such assault were strangers, the majority of these crimes were actually committed by someone the victim knew.

In fact, if the death penalty were the punishment for rape, wouldn’t it deter the victim from coming forward especially so if the perpetrator was one of their own family members. The entire system is based on the reporting of the case and who will report a case if the conviction would lead to the death of a father or brother or son?

Also, if you look at the actual laws in place in China, like India, the death penalty is actually the severest of penalties one can receive for rape. While, logically this should deter rapists, crimes against women haven’t gone down. Therefore, the correlation between invoking the death penalty and the consequent result of lower crime rate seems to be ill founded.

Tougher laws alone are not the answer. The problem in China and India is largely a cultural one. Violence against women is rooted in patriarchal gender relations where women are assigned roles based not on their capacity but norms and values that perpetuate male dominance and superiority. The gender inequality is embedded in all levels of the society such as employment, education and social status.

It is easy to look at the death penalty as a plausible solution to years of crimes against women. It seems almost justified in places India and China where rape is so rampant. However, rape has not stopped and it is almost foolish to think it will just because of the imposition of the death penalty.

Firstly, in order to be convicted, crimes of rape have to be reported. In patriarchal societies like India and China scores of rapes go unreported. In fact, the woman is often pressured by the authorities, her family or the attacker himself to recant her statement even if she does have the courage to go forward. Secondly, if no one is willing to listen, how can any rapist be convicted and sentenced to death?

The problem is not the law alone. The real problem lies in the systematic failure to recognize rape as an actual crisis or epidemic as I have put it many times before. It is not considered a serious enough issue and therefore, even asking for the death penalty seems foolish. While it may bring justice for one victim, hundreds of others are still left in the dark.

According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, what should be focused on is whether the police are serious about such crimes, how quickly the matter is tried in a court and whether there is a system that punishment will be given to those responsible. Every case should not be treated as different but be given the due diligence that it truly deserves.

What do you guys think? Is the death penalty the answer?

We have a voice, use it.

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4 thoughts on “Is the Death Penalty the Answer?

  1. I can’t help but think a life sentence would be worse than a death sentence – you have all that time to mull over your actions (if you have any sort of conscience), you face persecution and jail does not seem all too pleasant. Your thoughts B?

    • Exactly why I don’t think a death penalty is effective enough a detterent for rape. Sure, it is a tough stance but does it change mentalities? Not too sure. Thanks for your comment Jill, appreciate it:)

  2. I totally agree with the fact that the death penalty is not a sufficient deterrent for rape. While I personally can’t say I have a definitive stand on whether or not I agree with the death penalty, I don’t think for this case it’s appropriate.
    As harsh as it may sound, I think receiving the death penalty is sort of an easy way out. They no longer have to think about the effect that their actions have taken, while the women and children who are their victims do. They don’t have to deal with the heartache and hardships that victims face. Yes, they loose their lives, but it was a consequence of their own actions, whereas victims of rape may loose their own lives too, that wasn’t the result of their own doing.
    I also agree that it is a cultural issue, the bottom line is that while women’s rights have come a long way, they haven’t come
    nearly far enough. There has to be a shift in the culture that devalues and under appreciates women. And that I think will be the hardest problem to tackle because of the ingrained nature of culture and it’s pervasive nature.
    A change in mindset is what is truly needed, the severity of the crime of rape and the importance of women needs to come to the forefront of the worldwide agenda.
    Maybe arguing over the appropriate punishment is not the way to go about it. Maybe arguing over the stigma associated with rape is what’s needed. Maybe stressing the importance of counselling and changing mindsets is needed. This case has definitely brought, and sadly so, much needed media attention to the crime of rape, and something needs to be done.

    • Exactly, it’s pivotal that the entire society be educated on women’s rights and that sexual entitlement is not reason enough to justify rape. Justice will not be served by killing another, although they probably deserve worse. Justice can only be served if the entire notion of a ‘rape culture’ is destroyed. But, that will take years of reform and education. Fingers crossed!

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