Amidst the nationwide protest on Monday, Bangladesh’s cabinet has passed a bill which allows the death penalty on rape. This decision is the result of increasing pressure form people after an upsurging number of sexual assault cases in the country.

But it again upheaves the question; is it right to award death penalty on rape? Does adding the death penalty on rape deterrents the crime to occur again? Should countries like India also add the death penalty as maximum punishment for the rapist?

What is the true motive of punishment and penalty?

Rape is a terrible crime and the culprit in the case should be punished as harshly as possible. But what is the true purpose of punishment? Is it just to make the culprit suffer or the objective is more than seeing the evildoer racked in pain.

In every constitution, there are punishments for offensive crime. But the soul purpose of these punishments and penalties is to set an example so people do not repeat the crime. Death penalty on rape aims to root fear in offenders and therefore protect women from any further sufferings.

But the question still stands tall; will adding the death penalty be able to ensure the safeguard of women?

Will death penalty on rape provide shield to women?

According to Ain-o-Salish Kendra, a human rights organisation; from January to September there have been about than 1000 cases of rapes in Bangladesh out of which 208 were gang-raped.

Only just last month, video of a brutal sexual assault of a young woman by a group of eight men was posted on social media from south-eastern Noakhali. This incident followed by a few more has sparked rage in the country. Along with the capital city Dhaka; protest has erupted in many cities for stricter punishments and the death penalty to the felon.

The problem in the of Bangladesh as with most of the neighbouring country is not the severity of punishment, but; the damp squib of the court in passing timely judgement. And for the most part victim themselves fear to come forward and speak about the wrong with them; therefore damping the hope of justice forever.

According to Naripokkho, a Bangladesh established women’s right organisation, only 0.37% of total rape cases makes to conviction.

The un-anticipated fall back of death penalty on rape

Adding the death penalty in the case where women are not able to speak up for themselves might have an opposite result than anticipated.

  • No data to prove that the death penalty is deterrent: There is no data to prove that imposing the death penalty stop or discourages the criminals from committing the crime. Adding a death penalty will not ensure the safeguard of women.
  • Lessen reporting: In most of the cases; the rapist is someone the accused already knew and in a considerate proportion of cases the culprit some family member. Under these circumstances, the probability of reporting rape given the probability of the death penalty is very small. If the delinquent is close to the family, the victim might face family pressure for not reaching out of official help.
  • More chances of murder: given the fear of the death penalty, perpetrators may murder the victim to make sure that there is no way anyone finds out about the crime.

Another reason that can be argued against the death penalty is survivors of sexual assault are often considered to have lost their honour. As in most of the part, the sexuality of women is linked to honour. A women’s right group, in 2018, opposing the death penalty for rape said; “The logic of awarding death penalty to rapists is based on the belief that rape is a fate worse than death. Patriarchal notions of ‘honour’ lead us to believe that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman. There is a need to strongly challenge this stereotype of the ‘destroyed’ woman who loses her honour and who has no place in society after she’s been sexually assaulted. We believe that rape is a tool of patriarchy, an act of violence, and has nothing to do with morality, character or behaviour.”

The Gloomy silence

Whenever any such case catches public attention, mass protests are carried out demanding for hanging the rapist. But what we miss is only a very small proportion of the rape cases makes to the headline. Most of them stay unconcerned. When the protest dims people forget about the case and thus the victim suffers in dark.

The demonstrators ranting “Hang the rapists” and “No mercy to rapists”, crowding the street, demanding for justice; it is like a reel played over and over again, few times a year just with new faces every time. In some cases, the rapist gets charged with life imprisonment or death penalty whereas in some they escape; but rapes keeps on happening. Thousands of cases piling up every year but nothing changes.

To make changes and stop these crimes it is more important for courts to bring quick conviction in the cases and empower women to speak up for themselves without fear.