Here is a question to test your institutional IQ.
Should the crime of rape be punishable by death penalty?
If you answered “yes”, you just agreed to kill a bunch of rape victims.
Agreed that escalating the punishment will discourage some potential rapists. But whenever the crime is committed, the rapist is far more likely to kill the rape victim. The logic is simple. See the decision matrix below.
|Choice for rapist||Policy: Jail for Rapist||Policy: Death for Rapist|
|Let rape victim walk free||Max punishment = jail, probability of prosecution = high||Max punishment = death, probability of prosecution= high|
|Kill rape victim||Max punishment = death, probability of prosecution = low||Max punishment = death, probability of prosecution = low|
In the world where rape is punishable by death, the rapist has already committed a crime that is punishable by death. He is already at extreme risk. Now he has a choice to make. Let a woman walk, or kill the woman. If he kills the woman, this additional crime does not increase his risk, because you can’t punish someone beyond death penalty. In fact in case of killing the woman, one important witness, and in some cases only witness, is gone and prosecution of the case becomes much more difficult, thus in fact reducing the risk of rapist. If he lets the woman walk away, he is far more likely to get prosecuted and then hanged.
As a result, after instituting this policy change, one would notice a drop in rape crimes, followed by a surge in fatal crimes against women, and most likely eventually drop in successful convictions of rape. Certainly not a desirable outcome.
As made evident from the decision matrix, in the world of death for rape, the rapist has no incentive to let the victim walk free. But in the world of jail for rapist, he is better off letting the woman walk free. We certainly cannot rely on conscience of rapists, so we have to manipulate them by designing the policy. The punishment for rape must be lenient enough for the rapist to not to take extreme action to avoid it, and but still it has to be harsh enough to serve as a deterrent. What is more desired? 1000 less rapes? or 30 less deaths of rape victims. That is the choice every community has to make.
Moral of the story: Of every policy change, there is a primary, visible effect, which is most often the intended purpose behind making the change, and there is a secondary, often non visible effect. It is often hard to prove correlation of the secondary effect with the policy change. Often there are more than one secondary effects. This is where the policy debate must take place.
(Note: Some of you might find it offensive that I have discussed rape in so heartless, unattached way. I fully understand it is a emotionally devastating experience for the victim. I just use it to make a point here. The point that a law driven by purely moral, or humanitarian consideration can actually cause more hurt in long term.)