No one is born a criminal; society made them one.
“Hate the crime, not the criminal.” — Mahatma Gandhi
This alluring expression by Gandhi was made against prisoners being punished harshly in jails. He demanded society to understand the psychology of a criminal and what that ingredient is that turns a genuine human being into a culprit. But does this statement restraint us from hating a rapist, murderer or a corrupt man? Not at all. These words allow us to hate rape, murder and corruption so, we as a society should not uphold them.
After paying close attention to studies done by criminologists and physiologists all over the world, I, too, support the path of prevention and rehabilitation instead of favouring corporal punishments, which are traditional methods. These methods were followed after many of the mishaps, including the Nirbhaya rape case and the Hyderabad case.
But did it stop the Hathras gang rape from happening? No. Believe it or not, death penalties are just for public satisfaction and give no antidote against the disbanding of these crimes. Such punishments are ineffective methods to curb crimes from society, as stated by professor Jeffrey Fagan in a research paper by Columbia Law School.
It’s hard to cure a fully infected body instead of removing that one initial part that causes the disease to the whole body. And I guess the initial start of every crime comes from anger, frustration, lustful desire, greed and how can I forget the dreadful term ‘patriarchy’ in our society? According to Richard J Herrnstein and James Q Wilson in the New York Times publication, societal factors play a huge role in turning a normal human into a criminal mindset. How they have been brought up, the kind of education they receive and what they see in their families — all constitute their behaviour in adult life that might be aggressive, loving, dominating or encouraging in nature.
When a doctoral research thesis was done on Tihar Jail rapists by Dr Madhumita Pandey, she observed that 80% of criminals don’t even understand the meaning of consent because their culture has never taught them that a woman’s consent matters and those from richer class who understand the meaning of consent had bribed the protectors of justice to shut their mouths.
We as society are always much more focused on how to punish the accused and how women should be protected against rapes — can staying at home, not going to deserted areas and learning self-defense help women? If your answer is yes, then what would you like to name the marital rapes and domestic violence happening behind closed doors and harassment inside crowded metros? I guess if bodyguards of society, i.e. men, know how to protect a woman, then there is no need for girls to learn martial arts.
The penal code need not be reformed, but it’s our mentality and the way of work need to be changed first. Day-to-day practice of eve-teasing, throwing sexist jokes, using degrading language and memes against women, and making movies such as Agni Sakshi, Tezaab, Biwi no. 1 and Pati Patni Aur Woh, which encourage domestic violence are a huge threat to our culture.
I have seen many Indian ‘nationalists’ who criticise foreign customs and term their culture as superior when it comes to laws on marital rape and sex education, but for the same people, it’s quite cool to watch pornography on their 4G network rather than learning the same in schools.
I put blame on these people because while the American feminist movement is demanding a braless society, people in Haryana are still blaming girls for wearing jeans — after all, it invites men. How normal it is for parents to raise their boys with titles such as Sher, Raja etc., ultimately pushing them towards harsh masculinity, teaching them not to cry during hard times, and not to say sorry even when they are wrong because the king never apologises and the lion never bends in front of others.
Rajya Sabha MP Jaya Bachchan once stated in her speech that such culprits should be brought out in public and lynched. But should any mature democracy be a supporter of mob rule? I guess a proud moment for Indians was not when Ajmal Kasab got hanged, but when Bhishma Pitamah of Indian law Ram Jethmalani decided to defend him.
It is not that I am justifying such offenders, but everyone is entitled to be heard and put on trial. Imagine what we would call ourselves if we ever hanged the wrong person to death; we’d be called murderers then. Hope you remember the Ryan International School abuse incident, where the first instance bus conductor was declared the perpetrator, but after a CBI investigation, we came to know that the real culprit was someone else.
Demanding capital punishment and encounters is easy, what’s hard is doing nationwide campaigns, interviewing convicts, giving ‘real parvarish’ to children and reforming society at large. It’s important that we all come together and work on the root causes of these crimes. There is no better way than educating and empowering women while also ensuring that young men develop a healthy notion of masculinity. It’s not the sole duty of the police or judiciary to protect fellow humans, it’s ours too; because we too are humans.