by -- Rukmini Sen, Fri, Dec 6, 2002
Why feminists oppose the death
penalty for rapists
The Deputy Prime Minister of India proposed Death Penalty for rapists
through a statement. Apart from any other arguments, Death Penalty, as
such, is a violation of Human Rights.
Contrary to the common belief, the Feminist world was shocked and at a
loss at this attitude.
The basis of such a statement is that "Rape" is the most heinous
crime possible against women, that there is no difference between being
killed and being raped, that if a woman is raped she is as good as "dead".
My question is - is she?
As a woman who has interacted with women in various ways I want to answer
this question. Being raped is nowhere close to dying. We don't die when
we are raped. We may feel powerless, humiliated, insulted, hurt, angry
etc for a while but Rape is another trauma. Life goes on after a trauma.
We'll be traumatized if we are dragged from our house and stripped in
front of a bunch of people. We'll feel the same if we are tortured by
slaps, kicks, abuses. The point I am making is there are many more ways
of getting physically and emotionally hurt. How and why is Rape different?
Is Rape different because a "sexual act" happens here? Is Rape
different because one is getting "Sexually assaulted" here?
Is "Sexual assault" necessarily more traumatic than any other
"assault"? Does it all look so painful because in the hierarchy
of "Sexual assaults" also rape tops considering legally rape
happens only if there has been "peno-vaginal" penetration. Does
it all look so traumatic because Peno-Vaginal penetration is the ultimate
sexual act according to the normative population? Is it more so as one
associates it with a woman's virginity and honour in our patriarchal society?
My question is if a woman is severely sexually assaulted and somehow penetration
hasn't occurred will she be any less traumatised? Are we women being told
that our life ends if forcefully " vaginal penetration" occurs
but if it doesn't "we can still live". Are we being told that
if penetration is proved the rapist will die but if it isn't then nothing
The point is "Death Penalty" to rapists is a reinforcement of
the same "honour-shame" syndrome. Moreover why will the rapist
not get rid of all possible evidence, which might take him towards death
penalty? Yes, I mean why will he not kill the rape survivor in the end
of the day? Moreover why should we go by the Sexual Hierarchy set by our
patriarchal society? A sexual assault is a sexual assault and can't be
judged by the parameters of "penetration" alone. A Trauma is
a trauma and can't be judged by the parameters of "Honour" and
"Shame". In the end no woman loses her "honour" when
she is raped. She loses it when she allows her mind to believe it.
goes for men also. So what if we are silent about it. Rape is another
form of physical and emotional torture and what it requires is quick justice
not irresponsible statements. Lastly death penalty can't be supported
in any civilised state. Sincerely.