It is difficult to ever forget that one class I had with a very interactive guest lecturer in law school. It is the single greatest question I can think of today as we face the prelude to doomsday. Do we really need an apocalypse to prove that the end of the world is near when humanity has taken a complete 360 degrees turn towards its anti thesis?
Back to the question that I continue to ponder over, which somehow I believe never left me from the time I was first faced with it as an impressionable law student. What is it that really makes rape more heinous than murder? Why is it that the voice of India cries for capital punishment for rapists more than it does for murderers? How exactly does taking away an individual’s life look paler in comparison to encroaching upon a woman’s autonomy over her body?
The answer is not crystal clear. Legal pieces directed me to historical evolution of the law wherein a woman was considered a ‘good’ and a rapist was automatically asked to pay a fine for ‘damaging’ the ‘goods’ either to the father or the husband. A penny for my thought, has much really evolved? If the women are raped at the rate they are at, even in this day and age, have women actually stopped being treated as goods?
The New York Times wrote this piece a while back titled ‘Is it a Good Time to be a Girl in India?’. While it discusses the progress that has been made for the rights of women in India, from higher mortality rate to higher literacy rate, one cannot help but wonder about the obvious. Is it really a good time to be a girl in India when your parents actually let you be a part of the human race by not committing female foeticide, they educate you to be a better, more informed citizen of the country and even with all those wonderful developments, you realize that hyenas who call themselves men prowl the streets to prey on the body of the fairer sex with almost infinitesimal fear? It is a very cynical view and it does not make me less happy about the improving state of women in the country, but is it enough?
My answer to why rape is the most heinous of the crimes concerning one’s body is two pronged.
First and the most important is the impact of the crime. The impact of a rape of a woman’s person is so deep and so intense, that the damage that is done to the psyche of a woman is unfathomable. It is difficult to formulate a sentence that will justify the intensity of the harm and the magnitude of the trauma that such an act entails. Force, coercion, sexual violation of a woman’ body, the helplessness that accompanies the absolute denigration of her being. A rape is not a one-act crime; it continues to be committed in the head of the victim everyday, thereon.
The second reason for my opinion is that a rape is the succumbing of a man to his most vile instinct there is. More than just an issue of the man and his instincts, it is a malady that goes much deeper than just the instinct. Why does the man have the gall to act on such an instinct? Is it because the respect for women as equals has remained only on paper? Is it because our law and order is so lax that there exists no fear? I think it is a bit of both.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. But is castration really the solution to an endemic like rape? I am not sure I know the answer to that.
What I do know, however, is that the there is a lot more required to deal with this grotesque crime than just an amendment to the law. To reach a stage in society where the mere thought of acting upon his filthy instinct, sends a chill up a man’s spine, we require symbiotic efforts between the community, its people and the state and its machinery. In a state where the police issue statements blaming a woman’s choice of clothing as a justification for her rape, a lot needs to be done and this fact can never be overstated. Does that mean that there has to be an unlearning and relearning to understand the sociological nuances of a crime like rape? Why not. Is the law merely the answer when the implementation is flung on the backburner? Effective and prompt investigation, speedy trial, thorough examination of the evidence, these are points of law and implementation that form the nerve of the solution. With a little more emphasis on speedy and effective trials, we might just make headway into dealing with a crime like this.
Having said that, a fear of the law can only be instilled by setting a precedent. Not all rapists understand law or its implications. A precedent, however, does surpass the problem of ignorance of law. Do we need social sanctions? I do not see why not. On the confirmation of the identity of the rapists, it is essential to expose their identity to the public.
I am not an expert. This is not exhaustive. These are merely questions and possible answers that have arisen from a lot of mental conflict, reading, understanding and sure, a lot of emotions.