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5-min read

OPINION | Crime Against Women is More of a Psycho-Social Issue Than Legal

Fear only affects psychology for a short period while education and awareness can make a positive change in society.

Ramanand |

Updated:December 4, 2019, 1:13 PM IST
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OPINION | Crime Against Women is More of a Psycho-Social Issue Than Legal
Illustration by Mir Suhail

Last week, a veterinary doctor was found dead on NH-44 after she was gang-raped by a group of men. First, let us get one thing straight. What happened is inhuman, we cannot even imagine the ordeal that young girl must have gone through, not to mention the pain her family must be feeling right now. Everyone wants justice for the woman and her family.

But during times like these, what people often forget is that they cannot take the law into their own hands. Exactly the opposite of this was suggested by Jaya Bachchan, veteran actor and lawmaker from the Samajwadi Party.

Her suggestion was to hand over all the accused to the public so the people can do with them whatever they feel is just. These kind of statements have been and welcomed by many people, which shows that as a society, we still depend more on the state. We are afraid to take responsibility.

Mob justice is no kind of justice. It might feel righteous, but in the larger scheme of things, it speaks about how the moralistic strand of our country will be torn apart if we take the law into our own hands. How can we call ourselves a bunch of righteous people when we have no problem in committing a crime in broad daylight to answer for another crime? How can we expect the people to not commit such gruesome acts when we are not ready to lead by example ourselves? How can we expect people to show us their best side when we go on and show them our worst?

Mob justice is a concept of the medieval times. Our civilization and values have evolved. We have opted for more preventive measures rather outcome-based measures.

There is one more argument to be made here. India is a civilised country where people believe in the rule of law. We fully believe in the ability of the courts to make sure justice is being served to the people who have been wrong. Taking matters into our own hands will only make things worse. Today, it is because of rape, but tomorrow it will be because of any trivial matter. The general populace cannot be given the right to kill if civilised society is to be maintained.

The due process should be followed in all criminal issues. However, the process should sped up to ensure justice on time. This kind of statement made by Jaya Bachchan might make people think that the politicians are serious about the whole issue and crave justice for the victim, but it doesn’t solve anything in the long run.

The fact that people are so frustrated with this crime shows their frustration with the whole system. People are no longer ready to believe that justice will be served in a timely manner. Hence the protests and marches. It is people’s disbelief with the whole course of justice that compels them to brazenly espouse ideas such as mob justice.

What we have to understand is that this frustration stems from the fact that the legal system has not been very successful in deterring people from committing such crimes.

To put this claim into perspective, let us look at some facts and figures.

According to the NCRB report, the number of rape incidents in 2012 were 24,923. Then there were some changes made in the law in the aftermath of the infamous Nirbhaya gang rape case. The main objective of the changes in the law was to deter people from committing such gruesome crimes, but recent data reveals that the number of rape incidents has just increased after 2012. For instance, in 2017, there were 32,559 rape cases reported.

From 2012 to 2017, the conviction rate has not been very good. This reveals that changes in substantial law haven’t helped much to reduce such incidents. This indicates a failure of the reinforcement theory to instill the fear of punishment in the people.

Law cannot change the psychology of people, but social awareness and education can change. We can tackle this psycho-social problem with the legal instrument but we need a holistic approach to address this issue.

When people make statements such as “it was the girl’s fault” or “she was wearing short clothes”, it tells us about the mindset of the people which makes them feel that it is fine to impose their will and their body on a person. Focusing on education from the start will help in changing the mindset of the people and make them more aware of these things.

As a society, we are moving towards punishment-oriented justice. Our definition of justice is getting more and more dependent on the quantum of punishment for guilty and that is not a very healthy sign for our society.

After a crime, we demand strict law and our fight for justice is only restricted to making a law. When the law comes into existence, we believe that our job is done. When another crime happens, we come up with another stricter law. We have to understand that the primary job of society starts after these laws come into existence.

As a society, we do not want to invest our energy on education and social institutions to create better awareness among people about crime and mishappening; our primary aim is to terrorise people with the threat of punishment instead of urging people to respect each other’s dignity.

We are becoming a law excessive society which is more dependent on the law than basic discipline. Instead of making the law, if we more focus on education, textbook and other social institution which play an important role in the socialisation of the child, we can change the social psychology in a better way.

Fear only affects psychology for a short period while education and awareness can make a positive change in society.

(Ramanand is Director of Center of Policy Research and Governance. He has worked as a consultant with MHRD on NEP and is an alumnus of TISS, Mumbai. His Twitter handle is @iramanandn. Views are personal)

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