28 January, 2013

The J.S.Verma Report - Couple of points to ponder on

(Pic courtesy : creativeyouthideas.com via Google)

At first glance, upon reading the gist of the Justice J.S.Verma report, though it did sound quite balanced overall, some bits did leave me bothered.  A couple of aspects in the report specifically stood out.
One question has consistently been on my mind ever since I read about the fifth rapist in the Nirbhaya case not being tried in an adult court of law on account of being a juvenile.  Now the Justice Verma report too has negated lowering the juvenile age from 18 to 16, as was being demanded by the public.  My question here does not really revolve around the math or a specific number.  It has more to do with the sense of responsibility or like I’ve said in one of my earlier posts, accountability.  I do admit that cases where very young children have been accused of murder or some such have room for a debate as to whether they “knew” or “were aware of” their actions in committing the crime. 
In this regard, I can’t help but recall the case where a British law court convicted two ten year olds in 1993 for having tortured and murdered three year old James Bulger.  The “murderers” were just ten years old but end of the day, what they had done had been more heinous, far more monstrous for their chronological age to get them out of trouble on the pretext of being “juveniles”.
Shouldn’t the law take more into account than just mathematical age ?  Should youngsters committing crimes not be held accountable for their actions ?  Should they not be held responsible for their actions, especially given the fact that things reach the court of law only when their actions have been serious enough. 
The fifth rapist in the Nirbhaya case was reported to have been the most brutal and he is probably the one that is going to walk free in a few months time – all on the basis of being a juvenile.  This is one loophole in the law that needs to be plugged.  
Ironically, it is the very same law that is able to do nothing about the scores of child labourers in India.  Juveniles committing crimes, no matter how heinous or savage, are given special treatment and shielded from paying the penalty for what they’ve done but the law does nothing to go those extra miles and protect children from child labour throughout the country.  Is the law not aware that this problem exists ?  Yes, it does.  It has laws, regulations in place banning child labour.  But my question is “How about the enforcement of these laws w.r.t child labour ?”  Tomorrow, if some vigilante decides that the fifth rapist should be tried in an adult court of law, that very law and the people who are dispersing it would stand up and say “but it’s against the law to prosecute a juvenile in an adult court”.    
Look at the other side of the coin – scores of children, little children, underaged are forced to work – manual labour, labour in factories.  Many of these children work in glass factories, work with chemicals and pesticides or worse still, are forced to sell their bodies on the street to the highest bidder.  Where does the law step in here ?  The law does not go any extra miles to uphold what has been put down in the books of law in these cases.  It is the very same law and legal system, though, that prevent juvenile offenders (no matter how serious the crime) from facing the brunt of the law, when that is what they fully deserve for their actions.   
Also, if the law talks of chronological age in determining whether a juvenile can be held “responsible” for the crimes committed by them, if this is just about the numbers, how would the law classify the 8 year old who has to slave through the day to bring in a paltry sum of money to feed mouths in the family ?  That 8 year old, for all practical purposes, is the “breadwinner” in that family.  Sad truth remains that there are countless such 8 year olds in the country.  If the law can take special precautions to protect juvenile offenders because they have not reached the chronological age of 18, why does the law not enforce more forcefully whatever it is that it has in place for these little ones that should be in schools, not slaving away in factories or brothels.  How about the social privileges, the communal freedoms that should be afforded to them on the basis of being underage ?  How about the little joys and pleasures of childhood ?  The law does nothing to enforce those.  So why protect juveniles who have been guilty of something as heinous as rape and murder ? 
Another bone of contention as regards the Verma Report is the bit about "mutilation" not being a part of the law in India - that's the reason why the option of a chemical castration was turned down.  But come to think of it, chemical castration does not tantamount to mutilation.  As has been said by many people and as I do myself firmly believe, rape is essentially a demented way to exercise control.  It is physical, yes, it is.  It is a physical act but the roots lie in the psyche.  It is more an exercise in domination and in showing women their place and one of the forms it takes is in the physical act of rape.  Many “old schoolers” have pointed out time and again that rape is more about the male biology and that it is their sex urge or the inability to “control the sex urge” that drives them to rape women. 
I read an article a while back which said that Jane Goodall, in 30 years of observing chimpanzees (primates that are said to be closest to humans in terms of biology) never once saw a rape among the chimpanzees. 
Rape is not a biological thing brought about by men and their sex urge.  Rape is learned.  Rape is a learned act of sexual violence which essentially stem out of the belief and ethos that prevails in paternalistic societies – that men have a right to control and dominate women, however and whichever way they choose to. 
Rape is also equally about instilling the “fear quotient” in the female population so that they are more amenable to domination.  However, this “fear quotient” is missing from the men that set out to rape women in the first place.  These men know no fear, they are not afraid because they know for a fact that in most cases, they would get away scot free.  They know that society would do a mighty fine job in raising and pointing fingers towards the women who have been assaulted in the first place.  They know that the law enforcement agencies would be among the first to point out that it was the woman’s fault, that it was the woman who was dressed provocatively, that it was the woman who was drunk and hence was inviting rape.  No one points a finger at the men, no governmental agency holds the men accountable. 

It is this lack of “fear factor” that drives them towards something as heinous as rape, with total impunity and audacity.  It is in instilling this “fear factor” that the law needs to think of punishments that would take away from these men the very thing they feel they can use to dominate and control women.  It needs to tackle their misplaced sense of potency and power.
If rape is a learned action, the law needs to be suitably amended to make sure that the “unlearning” process happens too.  In any learning or in this case, unlearning process, there has to be a motivating factor.  With rapists, this motivating factor would have to be “fear” because that is probably the only thing that would make these men think twice (probably) before laying their hands on a woman. 
Chemical castration renders people impotent and would turn rapists into objects of ridicule.   More importantly, they would have to live with this for the rest of their lives.  They deserve it and hopefully this would serve as a good example for other macho males who might have been harbouring plans or ideas on similar lines. 
End of the day, putting the age and crime factor together, if a juvenile is old enough to go through and carry out something like rape or murder or any other crime that is savage, unrestrained or brutal, they are old enough to be punished, they are old enough to pay for their deeds.  Simply put, people have to be held “accountable” for their actions, irrespective of whether they are 50 years old or 15.  Once that is established, they need to be made rather acutely aware of the fact that accountability comes with a price that has to be paid.

6 voice(s) said so:

Sumana said...

Finally what keeps these rapists at bay is something God alone can answer. After the Delhi incident, there have been even more cases of crime everyday. And you also see murder following rape, reason being, there will be no one to tell the tale na.

Swati Raman Garg said...

its sad that mathemetical age plays a significant role out there... hope it changes some day...

Aparna said...

All we need to do is to have a provision that in certain cases (heinous offences) the juvenile would be tried as an adult, whatever his biological age. This routinely happens in the US and (I think) in the UK as well. Doubtless in other countries also. This would both preserve the interests of juveniles prosecuted for minor offences as well as ensure justice is served in cases like the Delhi rape case.
Good post and thought-provoking.

Aparna said...

All we need to do is to have a provision that in certain cases (heinous offences) the juvenile would be tried as an adult, whatever his biological age. This routinely happens in the US and (I think) in the UK as well. Doubtless in other countries also. This would both preserve the interests of juveniles prosecuted for minor offences as well as ensure justice is served in cases like the Delhi rape case.
Good post and thought-provoking.

Me! In words said...

Our legal system is by and large based on antiquated laws which are further manipulated by a demented sort of thinking. This mindset prevails among upholders of the law and those who are supposed to be governed by it. The acts of this so-called juvenile are definitely not child-like. Trying him in a juvenile court is just a re-affirmation of the mindset - "Baccha hai - galti ho gayi". The lack of fear as you rightly put it is what will ensure that cases like this are far from over.

Sirisha said...

I will give an example: in a slum next to my apartments, which I cross daily.. I observe a 10 year old boy. He hits his 7 year old sister with an authority that scares me. He uses cuss words I never knew existed and uses sentences I can bet on my life used by his dad on his mum. He is practising. He will be the rogue I have to protect my daughter in a few years. Because, he has been taught all women are to be treated that way irrespective of whether its his mother or sister.
There is the grassroot problem of India. Any commitee should start there. I dont want the the particular Juvenile to be let free so easily but there are many in the making like him too!