String the rapist high
Making law is one thing, enforcing it is another, emphasises Sushil Kutty.
Now that there is an ordinance to deliver death to rapists of children below 12, there are those who are calling for a "nuanced look" at the whole thing. Their argument: Death penalty for both rape and murder will make rapists kill without compunction; most child and infant rapes are committed by relatives and if rape begets death then family councils will rule not to report; in cases of gang-rape, the judge will baulk at sentencing everyone in the group to death. Last, death penalty has failed as a deterrent to murder.
The Modi government need not be told of the "nuanced look". In fact, the government and BJP will take credit for taking steps to "safeguard women" with the ordinance. The ordinance rules for speedy investigation and trial – a maximum of two months to each function, four months in total. Appeals will be dealt within six months. Then to the gallows free!
Those calling for a "nuanced look" criticise just that: The hurry to 'sentencing'. Innocents might get strung up without the chance to a fair trial. The government doesn't care. It has gone one step further. The ordinance rules out anticipatory bail to the accused. Also, to hell with privacy warriors. A database of sex offenders will be maintained at the Women and Child Development Ministry.
As for the death penalty, conservative parties worldwide are partial to death penalty. BJP is no exception. Dictatorships also use death to punish offenders for many crimes. The liberal parties are the bleeding heart saviours. For them, human rights of condemned prisoners also matter. In some cases, they are the only human rights that matter.
The maximum punishment for aggravated sexual assault till the ordinance was approved was life imprisonment. Juvenile rapists could get away after learning any trade in the juvenile home. Like the juvenile in the Nirbhaya gang-rape. He got out with flying colours, after learning to paint! Will the juvenile in the Kathua gang-rape get to paint his way to liberty too? Last heard, he was being tried as an adult. Juvenile criminals know their law well. They commit horrendous crimes knowing they will get away scot-free.
That is why the next question: Has the news of the death penalty for rapists of minors been conveyed to juvenile detention homes? Have schools and colleges and jails across India been informed that anybody found guilty of raping minors under 12 will get their necks stretched within 12 months of the rape?
Families must also be sensitised. The majority of Indian parents are complete dunces. Children don't get told the difference between 'good' and 'bad' touch. The father hangs out with drunks and loafers. The mother allows male adolescents into the home. Come Holi or Diwali; birthday bash or marriage – Bhaiya, Bhatija, Chacha, and Mama, all walk in and out of the house with god only knows what in mind. A notice on the front door that child rapists will be hung from the ceiling fan will not be out of place. Rapists are cowards. Child-rapists more so.
Besides parents (and the father is not above suspicion; Sunday it was reported a 13-year-old killed herself in Bihar after her father raped her), community as a whole should take a hand in making dents in 'the rape-culture'. Residents Welfare Associations should enact bye-laws to rein in/expel potential sex offenders. The POCSO Act should be drummed into delinquent juveniles. Watchman, Gardener, Mason, Plumber, and Electrician should all be vetted before being handed the appointment letter.
The times have a changed. You cannot trust anyone anymore. But children trust people they are familiar with or are related to, intrinsically. And why not? They keep hearing Mamma and Papa say "Bhaiya Ko handshake Doh Beti, Bhaiya Aap Ke Liye Present Layen Hain"; "Uncle Ko Ek Puppy Doh Beti, Uncle Aapko Pyaar Karte Hain."
Those who rape tiny tots are psychos and sociopaths. They commit one child-rape, they want to commit another, and another... It's pathological. The ones calling for a "nuanced look" should hold their horses. Death penalty is a deterrent. The thought of certain death should render those who harbour thoughts of raping minor children impotent.
That being said, there is a big difference between enacting a law and enforcing it. The Justice Verma Committee, constituted after the
Nirbhaya gang-rape, put in place the POCSO Act in 2013. But many of its recommendations are yet to be implemented. Strict enforcement of the changed POCSO Act must be ensured. A culling of rapists of children should not draw nuanced looks.
(The views expressed are strictly personal)