It took 7 years for the finality of the justice system to reach the decision of hanging the culprits of the brutal Nirbhaya gang-rape case that happened in Delhi, India in 2012. A rape that shook the entire world.
On the morning of March 20th, the 4 convicts of the case were finally hanged to their death. There were celebrations in the corridors of justice and all across India, as the fight to put an end to the case was achieved. (The 5th convict is a minor and the decision about his punishment is still pending.)
As the country applauded, take a step back, to analyze what this spontaneous breaking out of appreciation portends for the deep-rooted morality of a society. This might be an extreme example but amongst the general populace and common sentiment, there seems to run unbridled an emotion that can only be termed as bloodlust.
Justice is commonly perceived as revenge and neither punishment nor reform seems to be the objective. Often times news reports see the survivors or kin of the victim seeking revenge, demanding revenge that the media picks up on and adds its two bits to it. The hankering mounts for retribution, reprisal and most stridently for vengeance.
The efficacy of the death penalty as a deterrent for violent crimes, like rape, is dubious. The outrage over the Nirbhaya case led to laws concerning sexual violence being changed, with harsher punishments for rapists. However, that has not yielded a perceptible decrease in the number of rape cases being reported in India. Some studies have even found that after the laws were made more stringent, the number of rapes leading to murders increased, as perpetrators did not wish to leave the victim alive to testify in court.
Initially, the execution of the four convicts was set to be carried out on March 3rd, 2020. However, the date was deferred again and again – a result of the convicts’ lawyer filing staggered curative pleas before the courts and mercy petitions before the President in order to push the possibility of the execution as far as possible. The sense of frustration that greeted the news of the execution’s postponement reflects how this case looms in India’s consciousness. There was a collective desire to see this chapter closed as if hanging Nirbhaya’s killers will signal the end of rape cases in India.
However, if that were the case, then we wouldn’t be seeing frightening headlines about the rape of a 12-year-old girl in Assam by a group of seven minors over the weekend. This depressing news is the second such story with a minor victim to come out of Assam in recent weeks, and things around the rest of the country are hardly any better.
Earlier last year, for instance, a woman in Hyderabad was gang-raped and then murdered. Her body then was burned to prevent identification. This case ended with the police killing the accused in an encounter, and India had applauded then as well. That same year, a rape survivor on her way to court to testify against the perpetrators was accosted and set on fire. She died a day later.
Nothing is going to change unless the thinking of society changes. India as a nation, needs to learn to respect their women as equal partners and not just the inferior gender and baby-making machines. The patriarchy has to end.
The Nirbhaya case was one in a million cases where the convicts were hanged. Many others are still roaming free in the country and women continue to face the same level of abuse.