The Death Sentence is Given

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The death sentence has been given to the four men in Delhi who committed gang rape last year, but how far does this promote human rights in India?

“In these times when crimes against women are on the rise, the court cannot turn a blind eye to this gruesome act.” – Judge Yogesh Khanna

On the 13th of September 2013, four men were sentenced to death following a crime that took place last year which shook the heart of India. The gang rape and murder of a 23 year old female student resulted in vast protests for women’s rights throughout the country. However does the death penalty given truly promote women’s rights?

The verdict that was given this week has opened India up to various national and international speculation and questioning. Is the death penalty a quick fix solution to women’s rights in India, or is it a turning point for Indian women’s liberation?

It can be seen at first glance that this verdict has brought justice for Indian women in society. This tragic crime has highlighted the true inequality within Indian society, in that women and the raping of women previously has not been seen as a terrible occurrence but deemed due to their ‘promiscuous nature’; for example, the clothes that they are wearing. Due to women’s status in Indian society it has been callously accepted and many have not seen justice for this act. However, the case that unfolded in December 2012 brought women onto the streets to protest, and has been seen to ‘shock the collective conscience’ of India. Women have spoken out against rape and demonstrated for justice to be brought to these men, and there are now considerations on how to make streets safer for women.

This is an important turning point for Indian women as it shows their social status rising and. with this, various debates are emerging on the subject of women and their treatment in society. These debates have called for harsher punishments upon the people who have committed these crimes and it is evident that the call from Indian women has been taken seriously, as the death penalty not often used in India has been placed upon the four men that committed the gang rape in 2012. Surely this is seen as a turning point for the liberation of women; no longer can rape and abuse go unnoticed. The announcement of the verdict brought cheering from outside the court room: ‘hang the rapists” and “a woman’s life is the foundation, do not defile it.” This is a step towards equality for women; people who commit these crimes now have to answer for them.

However, this step towards women’s rights in India may not be as huge as it seems. Yes, four men are receiving the death penalty but many women are still suffering in silence. This is highlighted by Amnesty International: “Sending these four men to the gallows will accomplish nothing except short-term revenge.” It is not a long-term fix, and although acting as a deterrent, does not get to the root issues of women’s inequality. There have been several cases of abuse happening to women from within their families, and the belief of women’s status as being unequal in embedded within India’s society. In order for real change these root issues need to be addressed, and the death penalty cannot and will not be a final solution.

The verdict for these four men is a valuable turning point for women and their liberty within India as the raping of women has become recognised as a crime and unacceptable within Indian society. However, for true liberation of women there is much to be worked upon. As quoted by Human Rights Watch: “The punishment of perpetrators is important but equally working together as a society to keep women safe is much, much more important.” Although this is a truly important stepping stone for Indian society and women’s rights, there are many more stepping stones to cross.

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