Before anything else, I need to strongly condemn those conservative politicians who don’t leave any chance of propagating harsher punishment for rape.
There have been various instances when the sexual crimes against women have been accompanied by extremely harsh physical violence: the Aruna Shanbaug case, the Priayadarshini Mattoo case, the Soni Sori case, the Shanti Mukund Hospital, Delhi’s nurse rape case, the moving-bus Delhi’s medical student rape case, etc. In all the above cases, apparently, the motive was not sexual lust per se but some kind of revenge motivated by either personal or ideological grudge. There is hardly any difference between a rape accompanying violence and the violence per se;; in fact, in all rape plus violence cases, the real crime is that of violence, and the rape is just incidental because of a softer target and the available opportunity. In Aruna Shanbaug’s and the Delhi’s medical student’s cases, the IPC provides for life imprisonment under part II of section 307 IPC; i.e., when attempt to murder is accompanied by hurt; however, section 307 IPC doesn’t differentiate between grievous hurt and hurt. In Soni Sori’s and Shanti Mukund Hospital’s nurse’s cases, the highest punishment of life imprisonment is provided for rape per se under section 376 IPC. In Priyadarshini Mattoo’s case, obviously, the highest punishment is death u/s 302 IPC. However, I fail to differentiate between any of the above cases. To me, all of them are cases of aggravated forms of physical violence against women; women are soft targets, and there is a definite need to protect them from the beasts; however, these are not the cases of mere rapes.
I am convinced that the rape per se is not as grave a crime as it is made out to be. There is a very big lacuna in the treatment of rape and other sexual crimes under the IPC. In the case of rape, except for a particular instance of marital rape, it has been left entirely to the discretion of the adjudicating judge to provide punishment as per the facts and circumstances of the case; at the same time, some crimes against women go completely unnoticed because of the inadequate or no treatment given to the infringement of sexual privacy (of both males and females) under the IPC; this gives a chance to the conservatives to demand the harshest punishment of death in all cases of rape, which is obviously arbitrary — I am an opponent of death penalty per se, so there is no question of my recommending any kind of death penalty for any crime whatsoever. The wide discretion given to a judge to decide the punishment in the cases of rape is arbitrary and is reflective of the complete inability of the Legislature to appreciate the fine nuances of the crimes against women and is also reflective of the need to give a comprehensive relook to the treatement of the crimes against women — it doesn’t matter whether it is rape accampanied by violence or it is some other sexual crime accompanied by violence having the effect of ruining the life of the victim.
I hope these conservatives will stop playing with the emotional sides of people because it is they themselves who give incentives to normal males to become beasts at the first place, by projecting them as the superior gender in all kinds of social relationships, including in informal relationships like that of boy friend and girl friend. Gender sensitization is the need of the hour.
©2012 Ankur Mutreja
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