Aren’t rapists afraid of law?

The Nirbhaya case prompted the government to make the law against rape more stringent. But the crimes continue even seven years on, as seen in the Hyderabad case

The rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinary doctor on the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway last week has left the nation shocked and shattered. Four of her assailants have since been arrested.

Criminal lawyers and a psychologist in Bengaluru spoke to Metrolife about the many implications of the crime.

In 2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, which came to be known as the Nirbhaya Act, was passed after the brutal assault and murder of a physiotherapist in Delhi.

Seven years have passed since the Nirbhaya case, and the law made death a punishment for rape. From all accounts, the stringency of the law is not deterring perpetrators.

Psychological cause

Kala Balasubramanian, counselling psychologist and psychotherapist at Inner Dawn Counselling and Training Services, says rapes are about dominance and power.

“There is an underlying feeling of inadequacy and how one can compensate for it. Rape gives perpetrators a sense of power over the victim. They don’t have any understanding of what the victims are undergoing and see them just as objects,” she says.

A rapist is often not a first time offender. “He could have taken the law into his own hands, though not for a gruesome or violent crime,” she says.

A small percentage of rapists might have mental disorders and be psychopaths or sociopaths but not every rapist has a diagnosable psychological or psychiatric disorder, she explains.

Spike in cases

Though these crimes have always been happening, they are being reported more widely now, observes Kala.

“This level of gory details given while reporting is more than it was 10 years ago; it is not socially responsible. It only creates fear among people but it doesn’t make any difference for a potential perpetrator,” she says.

Lawyers’ opinion

Advocate Geetha Menon says technology has played a huge role in the increase in rape cases. “Everyone has access to phones and the Internet, which in turn gives them access to porn. In a society such as ours, where sexuality is suppressed, porn creates such negative ideas of sex,” she says.

She suggests media and movies that glorify stalking and abusive behaviour also play a role. 

“In the Nirbhaya case, the boy who committed the most heinous acts, only received three years of punishment because he was a juvenile. What is the guarantee that he will not do it again? Is three years enough to reform someone that perverted?” she wonders.

Criminal lawyer Siji Malayil says the investigation and trial take a long time. “The courts are burdened with many cases, and there is a shortage of judges in Karnataka and other states,” he says. 

Often the police are unable to trace witnesses, and the victim and the family disappear because they are treated badly by their neighbours. After issuing several notices, the courts give up, lawyers say. 

Call for lynching

In the Rajya Sabha session, MP Jaya Bacchan has called for “public lynching” of rapists. Mimi Chakraborty, another MP, agrees with her.

While the anger is understandable, the solutions are not. In a PTI interview, Delhi-based human rights campaigner Shabnam Hashmi says when a rape is committed within the family, the death penalty would “pressure women not to report”. Lawyer Siji Malayil says no study has so far has been able to prove that death penalty leads to a reduction in the crime. “In the Arab countries, the law is very harsh, and that has not eradicated crime in any way. In India, the death sentence is only given in the rarest of rare cases, when the court feels the offender is beyond reformation,” he says. 

What law says

Section 374 and 375 of the Indian Penal Code define what constitutes rape, and provides stringent punishment that ranges from imprisonment of up to 30 years to death. Forced sexual intercourse or act by a man with his wife, as long as she is not younger than 15, is not considered rape.

Pillar to post

After the Nirbhaya case, all police stations were instructed by the court to register rape cases immediately, without standing on jurisdiction. In the Hyderabad case, the family had to go from one police station to the other.

Shocking

The Hyderabad rape victim’s name was trending on a porn website, and was searched more than eight million times.

Shame list

A few rape cases reported in the last two weeks:

Nov 21: In Sambhal district of Uttar Pradesh, a 16-year-old girl was raped and set on fire by her neighbour. She succumbed to her injuries after nine days.

Nov 24: A woman was allegedly raped by her husband’s friend during the husband’s birthday party. The 26-year-old rape accused was arrested.

Nov 26: A student celebrating her birthday at a park at Ishwarya Nagar, Coimbatore, was gang raped by six men. Four of the accused were arrested, and the police are looking for the other two.

Nov 30: A six-year-old was kidnapped and raped and murdered in Aligarh, UP. She went missing on Saturday, and her body was found on Sunday.

Nov 30: A four-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a youth in Churu district, Rajasthan. The case was registered by the survivor’s grandfather, who claimed the crime was committed by a 21-year-old man from the village.

Dec 1: A 70-year-old woman was raped by a 27-year-old man in Sonbhadra district, UP.

Dec 2: A 17-year-old girl in Jalore, Rajasthan, was kept chained and raped by her father for several days. She managed to escape and find her maternal uncle, who helped her file a complaint.

Dec 2: An eight-year-old girl was raped and murdered in Yakapur village in Chincholi taluk, northern Karnataka. The accused, Yallappa, was handed over to the police by the villagers.

Dec 2: A woman was raped by two, including a policeman, inside the police quarters in Puri, Odisha. The same day, a 16-year-old girl was gang-raped and beaten up by two men in Chhattisgarh.

Rape convictions in Bengaluru

Umesh Reddy, 2002

He was a serial rapist and killer arrested in 2002. He was convicted in nine cases in 2006. The police he is involved in the rape of at least 20 women. He was eventually given a death sentence. The case went to the High Court which confirmed the death penalty after reviewing his case. The Supreme Court also upheld the verdict.

Prathibha rape and murder, 2005

BPO employee Prathibha Srikanth Murthy was raped and murdered in 2005. Five years later, a fast track court found cab driver Shivakumar guilty of kidnapping, raping and murdering her. It sentenced him for life, with 20 years of rigorous imprisonment and a total fine of Rs 30,000 fine.

Dandupalya gang, 2012

The Dandupalya gang comprised 30 men and women who committed robberies, murders and rapes. They were active between 1991 to 2001. They largely targeted home-alone women in Bengaluru, Hubbali, Mysuru and Mangaluru. The last of the judgements for the gang came in 2012. Eleven got death, and a dozen were sentenced to life imprisonment.

National Law School (NLSIU) gang rape, 2012

In October 2012, eight men raped a 21-year-old NLSIU student on the Jnanabharthi campus of Bangalore University. In 2013, six men were sentenced to life by a fast track court. A juvenile was part of the crime. The eighth accused was nabbed in September 2013. His trial started in 2014 and he was convicted for life.

 

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