There is a story of the sage Raman Maharshi. When people went and talked to him about their grievances, he would ask “who is talking?” If the person talked about enlightenment, he would ask “Who wants to get enlightened?”
This seemingly perplexing question was intended to make the questioner start querying the nature of their own identity, the nature of source of desires and to begin the introspection necessary to eventually get enlightened.
The death verdict has been handed out to the Delhi Rapists a while back. It’s time for us to do that introspection by asking ourselves. “Who wants the rapists hanged? Which part of us will be happy when they are dead?” Because it’s not the incidents of rapes but the immediate cry to hang the rapists as a solution speaks volumes about our maturity as a society.
For one, I question the wisdom of hanging the rapist. When the rapist has already committed rape, if they already became eligible for penalty given for murder, why will they keep the woman alive? Keeping her alive in fact increases their chances of being found and being hanged. So won’t they kill the her? That’s going to be the unwelcome outcome of death penalty for rape. It may bring down the number of rapes, but it will increase the number of times the woman is killed after the rape. Have we asked the raped women is that really they want? Noone wants to get raped, but if raped, I bet a large number of them will still want to live, for their kids, for their loved ones. Because as heinous crime rape is, it’s still possible to cope with it in the long term with counselling and support.
Second, if all you are debating is what to do with the bad guys, you understanding of the real problem is superficial at best. Because in reality, deciding the punishment is very tiny piece of the puzzle. The larger pieces are to find the culprits, to make sure they are the criminals and not some scapegoats, to follow the due justice process and prosecute them for exactly the crime they committed, and to prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt.
What we really need is to dig deep in ourselves. For any event, there are causes and there are enablers. In the event of rape, the cause may be the criminal tendencies of a few young man. But the enablers are outdated values of society such as tying honor of the family to sexual encounters of a woman, even involuntary ones. Or outright barring premarital sex. Or banning prostitution for 19th century puritan values.
The last one might be a tough pill to swallow for some. But the fact is one huge enabler for the misbehavior against women is suppressed testosterone. Having a legal age sexual encounter much before marriage might just disillusion the young men about sex and they will know that while sex is pleasurable, it’s not worth scarring a woman for life. Why bar prostitution if it provides a channel for this disillusionment that is least hurtful to all? India already has one of the lowest ratio of cops per thousand citizen. Is the society better served by the cops chasing prostitutes? Or by the cops chasing murderers and robbers?
I am afraid solutions like allowing prostitution to reduce crime against woman will never go well with most of the angry crowd. Because that would involve stopping hypocrisy and coming to terms with reality. And because sadly the part of us that feels happy when the rapists are hanged is not the voice of truth inside us. It is the insecure part of us that whispers “I must yell out for the harshest punishment for the rapists, because I have doubts whether I am a good citizen and this is only way to silence my doubts temporarily”.
Sadly we have turned the death of an innocent woman into pornography for our conscience. Just like real pornography has one dimensional, shallow, unrealistic portraits of characters that quickly quench one particular thirst of human mind, we turned this whole incident into our quest for validation of our conscience, our need find clear black and white situations and then side with white to see ourselves in positive light.
And sadly the answer to the question “Who wants the rapists hanged?” is not a flattering one.