Saturday, September 14, 2013


I tried not to write this. I tried for many hours , many days, many decades. But perhaps it eats away at you, the not writing.

Why are we so up in arms about the death penalty for the rapists? Why isn't it about the death penalty for a brutal murder involving ripping out someones innards with rods and bare hands, and biting chunks of flesh off their torso and face? Isn't that what this is about? If a cellphone robber pins you down, slashes your stomach, rips your guts, batters your face, breaks your legs, stuffs an iron rod down your throat, would you then ask for 'death for cellphone robber'? Why would someone do that at all, wouldn't you ask? And if someone had done that, obviously the death penalty wasn't going to deter them.. They were determined to kill you, and there's already a death penalty for that. Why did they feel justified in punishing you so brutally then.. for having the cellphone? Or using it? Or just for existing?

Rape. That is such a blanket term. What has happened to half my friends as they grew up, done by family members, wasn't that rape? Would you like the death penalty for your uncles, your cousin, your brother? How about for your son? For every rape? The ones which go on for weeks, months, in our homes? No lets not get uncomfortable and change the topic. I know that over the last 30 years, almost every girl I know has had a few stories, a good few of them, of things that happened to them. Mostly friends and family members. Often for extended periods of time. Most never told anyone, except perhaps their 'best friend'. Sometimes, telling your mom was still an option. But if the perpetrator was a relative, telling your often powerless mom, was quite useless. Here we are not talking about police, or retributive justice for that cousin.. here we were often talking simply about preventing the ( common) recurrence. And yet there was a cocoon of silence.

Its almost as if by shouting death to rapists and exulting over the murder of these 4 torturers and murderers, we can dissociate that rape from the others. Rape, then becomes only this visceral, rage filled, blood bath, not the gentle emotional blackmail by the neighbor, who your father seemed such good friends with. Those 'victims' don't end up in the hospital, they look like the rest of us, outside the hospitals and the police stations. Those of us, who get together and justify the various reasons why we can't ever tell anyone. There is no point. We have moved on. Nothing can really be done. Those people have changed.

Those of us who have been abused, can feel vindication with someone else's hanging. Those of us who have perpetrated the abuse, can dissociate with the word rape. After all its only the outliers who actually act out the punishment fantasies, the rest of us can only make symbolic speeches about burning daughters for roaming around with a boy at night.

And everyone can be happy again.

ps - for those inclined to think in bullet points, here are 2 points to think about.

1. Dissociate the act of rape from the brutality. The brutality itself warrants almost any retributive/preventive punishment you want. The law already covers that.

2. Isolate the act of rape, and think about possibility that at least a few people you know, and who seem perfectly normal, are rapists. ( statistically almost inevitable). What causes that ? Does the headline 'death penalty for rapists' now worry you a bit more than it did? 


...:M e d h a:... said...

This is of course a very subjective discussion and I'm sure everyone you talk to will have their own point of view-- and again, the subject being so, many points of view can certainly be valid. However, I have to say I consider every act of rape and abuse a violent act. By its very nature, any form of sexual abuse is violent, regardless of whether its an uncle forcing you to hold his dick or whether it leads to the rapist strangling his victim. The scars it leaves on one's psyche are enduring and festering reminders of that violence. Its the supreme violation of your body. What happened to that poor woman went above and beyond what we normally consider rape, and I personally feel that even the death penalty is too good for them. But death for every rapist? In a country where the victim is made the brunt and told 'you asked for it?' It will never happen. And more so in a place where incest and abuse are so common.

Its horrific that you and I are able to discuss this and tell ourselves that we have moved on.

Tess said...

Completely agree with you. It took me a good 2 decades to tell myself that I had 'moved on', and some scars are indeed permanent. And I agree that each abuse is a violent act, physical or otherwise.

My worry in these headlines of 'death for the delhi rapists', is, that its neither here nor there.

These people were not deterred by the death penalty, they thought they had killed the couple anyway, they tried to run over them even so. It wasn't the death penalty which will be a deterrent here, its a functioning law and order system, and we call know the sad state of that. When the headlines scream 'rape', rather than the 'murder and brutality', I think it muddles the issues.

My bigger concern was that the hugely rampant rapes committed by family or known people, get almost forgotten in this shouting for 'death for delhi rapists'. These headlines don't even say 'rapist and murderer'. We end up associating rape with only this type of brutality, and thinking that every rape ends with the death of the girl.

We end up dissociating those crimes which leave the women with barely any physical scars. For a wide variety of reasons I personally don't even favour the death penalty for every rape. I mean i don't even agree with it for every murder. But thats just my view, even if some people favor it, the debate needs to move to more representative cases.

As you have said, in a culture of 'you asked for it', and general powerlessness,( socially, culturally, and of course in terms of law) even reporting a rape to our mother to prevent recurrence is a long way off. Is 'death for rapists' really the thing we need to be focusing on then? It worries me and angers me, because I think it is a red herring which is shifting the debate away from what really needs discussion.

Anonymous said...

I believe, death penalty for a brutal rape and murder was probably ordered out of sheer need, considering the number of people demanding it! However, those who suffer a fate such as rape during their lives (having to live with such emotional trauma for a very long time) at the hands of family, friends and complete strangers being served such justice, may raise the hairs off the backs of these rapists!

Very well written! :)