I’d just finished writing about the practical problems of instituting the death penalty for rape. Enough people these days demand the death sentence for rapists. We’re not talking about “rarest of the rare” cases like the Nirbhaya episode, where the actual act of rape was the LEAST heinous thing done to her – she was tortured, and then murdered. The death penalty in that case surprised absolutely no one.
But what about people who insist on the death penalty for EVERY crime of rape? What does it say about how they view the life of a woman? You might think it implies a respect for a woman’s dignity, but I believe it’s the opposite.
When the actual taking of a life – murder – does not get the death penalty, and we demand the same for rape, does it not mean that we view rape as a crime worse than murder? It implies that the rapist has “taken” something from the woman that is worth more than her life.
What is this “something”? And is it truly worth more than the life of a woman? Here’s a hint. The newspapers and the media always go to great pains to point out that a rape victim is “married”. I can guarantee you that you will find that word in the headline of the article, no less! The resulting outrage is far more in the case of an unmarried woman. Till very recently, it was a standard practice for the defense to bring up a woman’s “sexual activities” and pass judgment on her character.
Add to this the common refrain that a rape victim’s life is “ruined” and she’s now a “living corpse”, and you can see where that urge to hand down the death penalty comes from.
But I say this is wrong. A woman’s life is worth more that the fact that she was raped. I say that the overwhelming bulk of a woman’s suffering after the rape itself comes from how society views her, treats her, and makes her view herself even.
Do I also believe that rape “takes” something from a woman? Yes, I do. I believe it’s an assault not just on her body, but her dignity, her privacy, her sense of security in general. It’s an assault on civilization itself. Rape isn’t and never has been about “losing control”. It’s a carefully considered and planned crime.
For these reasons, I feel that the punishment for rape should be far in excess of a regular “assault”. But is it worth more than the victim’s life itself? No. Not for a moment.