Sexual assault against children may not always be a sexually motivated crime. It is a crime, as was seen in Kathua, often motivated by propaganda and the need to prove a point. Having said that, I would like to argue against the given statement.
When can we justify capital punishment or the death penalty for a crime? Either when it acts as a deterrent, where to kill the perpetrator would ensure that no one would repeat such a crime. Or, when the perpetrator is an un-reformable threat to society at large.
If we are to talk of the Kathua perpetrators, is killing them going to prove as a deterrent? Since propaganda cannot be deterred thus, it is almost redundant to kill specifically only those men who perpetrated the act of violence. What about the lawyers who obstructed the process of justice? Thus begging the question, how many people would the state be willing to kill in such a situation?
The act of assaulting a minor, sexually, to further one’s propaganda is heinous. It can be likened to terrorism. Which brings me to the fundamental difference between executing the perpetrators of the Delhi gang rape case, and the execution of Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru. While the execution of the rapists in the former case could be seen as an instance of deterrent, Guru and Kasab were killed solely to satiate public conscience, effectively making that as act of vengeance. Similarly, killing the Kathua perpetrators only amounts to vengeance.
The only way to justify killing someone is if it removes the problem itself.
Sexual crimes against minors may be the effect of sexual perversion or paedophilia, which is a disease that calls for rehabilitation and treatment. Such a person can be taken into custody and dealt with appropriately. There is no way to justify killing such a person, simply because the State is equally responsible for the target of sexual abuse and the perpetrator. It is extra important for us to protect our minors from sexual violence. But when we demand the death penalty for offenders, it is essentially a failure on the part of society to protect said child.
On the other hand, when propaganda is the motivation behind sexual assault of minors, killing yet again makes no sense, because the root cause is not addressed. The perpetrators in Kathua did what they did to assert their dominance.
Cutting off one head will only cause more to sprout in its place. By extension, awarding a death penalty will give out this message to the citizens that if they address their problems in a way that does not conform to the State’s ideals, they will be killed. Which is the first step to oppression, because in time, it will allow for all problems to be dealt with in this way.
We have a tendency to always demonise the perpetrator. The primary difference between a mob and the State is that the state is equally responsible for all its citizens, whether they are the perpetrators, or those on whom violence is done. The State must be unbiased in its action towards removing structural violence without giving in to the temptation of retribution and vengeance.