Four of the men charged with committing the gang rape that horrified the world late last year have been sentenced to death. The ABC reports:
Three days after finding them guilty, Judge Yogesh Khanna said the case fell into the “rarest of rare category”, which justified capital punishment.
“In these times when crimes against women are on the rise, courts cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act,” he announced on Friday, adding in his written statement that the “ghastly” crime had “shocked the collective conscience”.
Signing his judgement, he broke the nib of his pen – a custom of judges to convey their hope that such extreme punishments will not be necessary in the future.
There have, the ABC reports, been widespread calls for the perpetrators to be executed, and the verdict elicited cheers, applause, and CNN reports that in the crowd that gathered outside the courtroom, “posters and banners held by those in the crowd read ‘hang the rapists’ and ‘a woman’s life is the foundation, do not defile it.’”
The victim’s father told reporters, “We are very happy. Justice has been delivered.” His daughter, during the brief time that she was conscious in hospital in Singapore, allegedly told her friends and relatives “of her desire to see her attackers burn to death.”
But not everyone sees this as a way of delivering justice, or of preventing this kind of crime from happening in the future. Mallika Dhutt, the president of Breakthrough, a global human rights group that does a great deal of work in India, says that while she understands the desire to see the perpetrators executed, that’s a “highly limited” kind of justice. The real solution, she says, is more complicated and more difficult, but will also be more rewarding:
…the death of the perpetrators will do little to change the lives of women in India, today or tomorrow. Real deterrents include appropriate policing, accountable government, and effective implementation of laws. But more than that, the best deterrent to rape is culture change: bold, steady, and persistent challenges to the norms and biases that enable and excuse violence against women.
“We need to make violence and discrimination against women socially and culturally unacceptable, in India and beyond — not just in the spectacular cases, but also in our everyday lives, homes, and interactions. We need to dismantle the biases that send girls into dangerous early marriages and prevent girls from being born — leaving some communities in India with so few girls that they must be trafficked in for men to marry. And men need to stand shoulder to shoulder with women to demand and make that change.”
Lawyers for the men have said they plan to appeal, so it’s not clear how this will be resolved, or when. But one thing is for sure: rape is happening every day – every minute of every day. It behooves us to figure out what the best solution is and to implement it yesterday.