WE sympathise with the anguish and anger of Jyoti's parents, which may feel somewhat assuaged if her assailants are hanged. But the State that fails women in every way, every day, should not be allowed to absolve its sins by taking lives and draw our attention away from the substantive changes that the State and society must ensure to make women's lives more safe from violence, and more free.
The heinous rape and murder of Jyoti had triggered a powerful anti-rape movement and social awakening in the country which in turn had found its echo in the report and recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee. The law has since changed to an extent but its implementation remains lax and most of the recommendations are yet to be realised in practice. The fact is that in the vast majority of rape cases, the perpetrators still enjoy absolute impunity because the victims are failed at every step - by the police, by the judiciary, and by an overwhelming climate of patriarchal victim blaming. The exceptional, highly publicised executions of rape convicts in a rare case, far from deterring rape, actually deters our society and our Government from confronting and taking responsibility for rape culture. An execution falsely reassures us that rape is a "rarest of the rare" act committed by strangers, beasts. In fact, rapists are usually not strangers, but men we know and admire - and rape is a product of our patriarchal society, not an isolated rare instance.
Let us demand from the Government - 24/7 public transport so that the streets are flooded with women, so that no Jyoti is compelled to take a rogue bus; vastly more judges and courts so that all cases move faster; a policing and judicial system where the process of investigation and trial is not a punishment for the rape victim. Instead of Central and state governments sparring over who gets credit for hanging rapists (or blame for delaying the hanging), let us hold these governments accountable for their failure to achieve these simple steps that could make women safer and more free.
There is little point in seeking value in the deaths of rapists.
We should instead make sure we value women's lives and freedoms more.
Rather than celebrate the state's power to hang rapists, let us continue to work for a society which would not produce rapists.
- Issued by Rati Rao, President; Meena Tiwari, General Secretary; and Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, AIPWA