It is with a mixture of emotions that I feel compelled to write today about the guilty verdict in India’s now-infamous gang-rape trial. As a refresher, a 23-year-old woman who attempted to ride a bus with a male friend was brutally raped last year, as the other men on the bus decided to beat them both and violate her with a metal rod, destroying her internal organs to the extent that she later died in a hospital in Singapore.
Atrocious, the world agreed. And yet.
I am against the death penalty in all cases, which makes it difficult for me to digest the idea of death paying for death. However, I am more than aware of my own position is forming that opinion. As a citizen of two nations with relatively functional judicial systems and strong personal rights protections, I have little to fear from mercy. So it with a heavy heart that I recognize this “victory” for justice—and let’s not mince words, this is a form of justice, whether or not I support the methods.
I want to know if this actually sends a signal about the Indian government’s intolerance for violent gender-based crime. There are certainly those in India who feel that “This is the beginning of freedom for Indian women today. Today we are free, because these men are going to be killed.” We won’t know for years what the actual impact on the crime rate will be, but there is more to this case that is worth considering before we conjecture.
Apparently, India had a moratorium on all death penalty verdicts for many years, until November 21, 2012. Some are calling for India to revert back to that policy, but what I think is fascinating is that a country with the sort of international microphone that India has took a sexually-based manslaughter case all the way up to the highest level of punishment less that one year after that punishment became feasible.
I might not like the death penalty, but I am in a somewhat unsettling way thankful to see a government recognizing the danger and brutality facing many women every day, whether they leave their homes, “ask for it,” or generally dare to live with the same freedom as men. A government that is willing to make an aggressive international statement against rape, and against the idea that perpetrators will be allowed to walk free.
I don’t like it. But I can appreciate it.
(image via, under Creative Commons)