No civilised society should have a place for death penalty

What you do not want done unto your own bodies, should not be done to anybody else’s body

September 10, 2013 in Politics
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Last week, a district court in Saket handed out the death penalty to the four remaining rapists in the Nirbhaya case. There can be no doubt that one wanted extremely harsh and quick punishment for these rapists. Given the pace at which most cases move in India, including rape cases, this one has moved at a reassuringly fast pace. But there is a widespread glee with which the death penalty was received by people at large, including the media, which is deeply disturbing. Speaking for a large range of woman activists and certainly for myself, I believe that any civilised society can have no place for the death penalty.

There are many issues surrounding the death penalty. There is an ethical and moral issue, there is the issue of efficacy and there is the issue of human error. In so far as the moral and ethical issue goes, if we believe that there should not be violence done to anybody’s body, how can we accrue to ourselves or to any institution of a democratic society, the right to take a life? There are women activists who have worked on the ground, who say that the first impulse is one of revenge – for many women, including those who have survived rape, physical assault or acid attacks, the first impulse is to want castration or physical harm to be done to one’s perpetrators. But after deep discussion, women’s movements have come to the view that they neither want castration nor death. They believe that what you do not want done unto your own bodies, should not be done to anybody else’s body. What we want is justice, not revenge.


  • Stella January 11, 2013 - 6:28 pm

    Sorry to be off topic, but (a) the link to the rest of the story is broken and (b) Tehelka has failed to give image credit (the photo is by Kevin Frayer)

  • David H. January 14, 2013 - 7:36 am

    I have a thought… What would Mahatma Gandhi think of the commonplace rape of women and the acceptance of it by much of India’s male population?

    Gandhi is probably ignored by most today in India. It certainly looks that way anyway. But could anyone believe even for one second that he would do anything but speak out against such practices and condemn the rapists? He might also say to the young not to be so impatient, be respecful to ancient customs and traditions, perhaps for young women to dress more demurely and not to press for change too rapidly. But this is all conjecture.

    I looked the great man up on Wikipedia and include the following quote, which relates to his work with India’s Untouchables in the 1930s. In my view India can never claim to be a civilised or spiritual nation, despite the wisdom of the Vedas and all the good that issued forth from that great country. Not when it treats its own women as the Untouchables of the 21st century. To think people used to complain – often with just cause it must be said – about the treatment metered out by the British. Yet who needs Imperialists when your own people treat you this way?

    (Wikipedia on Gandhi): ‘On 8 May 1933, Gandhi began a 21-day fast of self-purification and launched a one-year campaign to help the Harijan movement (Gandhi’s term for Dalits, meaning ‘Children of God’).[81] This new campaign was not universally embraced within the Dalit community, as B. R. Ambedkar condemned Gandhi’s use of the term Harijans as saying that Dalits were socially immature, and that privileged caste Indians played a paternalistic role… Gandhi and Ambedkar often clashed because Ambedkar sought to remove the Dalits out of the Hindu community, while Gandhi tried to save Hinduism by exorcising untouchability (thus purifying it of one of the cancers which had poisoned it over the centuries perhaps?). Ambedkar complained that Gandhi moved too slowly, while Hindu traditionalists said Gandhi was a dangerous radical who rejected scripture. Guha noted in 2012 that, “Ideologues have carried these old rivalries into the present, with the demonization of Gandhi now common among politicians who presume to speak in Ambedkar’s name.”[83] Guha adds that their work complemented each other, and Gandhi often praised Ambedkar.’

    All very sad really…

  • Keerthi January 16, 2013 - 9:42 pm

    Hi Shoma, I don’t know if you understand Telugu but here is a video of a “guru” giving discourse on human relations. I don’t know how to put it mildly, but this guy really talks crap. You may say he is a stiff competetion to Asaram Babu. My parents follow him so religiously and buy in to all the non sense he preaches. I wage a war at my home to change their way of thinking but it is difficult when people of this kind keep giving lectures about “Ideal children, Ideal Wife etc” everyday. I really don’t know how we can fight these idiots.

  • Sheen January 24, 2013 - 12:08 am

    By birth and nature woman is a bit below man. Once this truth is recognized by women lots of problems related to molestaion, rapes etc. can be put under control. The motive behind female infanticide is an expression in support of this truth and quite contrary to the libbers’ view of equlity. According to “The Hindu” report on 09-10-2012 girl child numbers in India have shown a sharper decline than the male children in the decade beginning 2001, leading to a skewed child sex ratio. ‘Equality’ doesn’t mean same stature in ll walks of life. Equality should come in the minds of ‘MAN’. That is how SHAKTHI is acquired by MAN. Legal impositions, or government rules and regulaions will not bring about “EQUALITY”. Male chauvinists are weak to the core of their hearts! Because they don’t have PEACE in their lives. WOMAN is complementary to MAN in fulfilling LIFE!