Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Punishment for sexual harassment in the US and for rape and murder in India

I read the following news item from Washington in the Indian Express about a man being indicted by a jury for groping a sleeping woman on a flight-

Ranchhodbhai Lakha, 61, of Alpharetta, Georgia, faces charges of assault and abusive sexual contact for the Sep 28 incident on a Delta Air Lines flight from Dallas to Atlanta, the US Attorney's Office said on October 20, 2010.

A 20-year-old woman seated in the same row as Lakha fell asleep and woke up to find the man allegedly touching her below the waist, according to US.Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. The woman removed his hand but Lakha allegedly touched her again, prompting the woman to get up from her seat and report the incident to a flight attendant, Yates said.

If convicted, Lakha could face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

What amazed me is the kind of punishment he would get - a maximum of life in prison. Just contrast this to the very lenient laws we have in India. Even the recently proposed quantum of punishment for rape gets only a few years in prison. And then, the courts here are so liberal in letting off  sexual offenders, even those who have been convicted of serious crime like rape. The Supreme Court of India recently commuted the death penalty awarded to rapist and murderer Santosh Kumar Singh to life sentence because of some "mitigating circumstances" in his favour. And what did the court find as mitigating? Among them the fact that he  had married after his acquittal by the lower court and was the father of a girl child! What if he had fathered a male child?

As a woman, I find this reasoning difficult to digest. The judgment, like most judgments on rape and murder,  is very patriarchal in its nature, completely overlooking justice to the woman raped and the welfare of the women around the man. In this case Priyadarshini Mattoo who he raped and murdered, strangling her with an electric wire and battering her face with his helmet, and his own wife and daughter who would have to live with the constant reminder of him being in jail. Imagine life for the little girl. Growing up would be so tough knowing that your father was a  rapist and murderer.

What kind of a life would the wife have?  Having to come to terms with the fact that the husband has raped and killed a woman? Would she ever be able to forget that fact? It would be haunting her every single moment of her life.  Controversial as it might sound, it would be better for both the mother and the daughter if he was awarded the death penalty as the court had earlier decreed.  They would have a chance to start their lives afresh.  There would be justice done for Priyadarshini Mattoo, the woman he stalked, raped and brutally killed.  Priyadarshini's father, Chaman Lal Mattoo, who has been fighting a tough battle to get justice for his daughter says he is "shattered and dismayed" by the verdict.  His lawyer has said they would go in for a review of the punishment to be meted out to the rapist and murderer.

Life term in India is really no punishment for the well connected. They have reasonable comforts and do  some light jobs. What is more they can be released in a few years, and be regularly out of jail on parole. Watch on NDTV what Neelam Katara, whose son was murdered, has to say about life term in India.

What do you think should be the punishment for rape, and rape and murder?


Indian Home Maker said...

Punishment for rape and murder should be death. And punishment for rape rigorous imprisonment. Life term for violent rape, incest with minors, or any rape of minors...

I think if the victim has faced any physical injuries the punishment should be very rigorous, like the victim ((a nurse, who was injured very seriously) who is in coma for years, also custodial rapes should be taken very seriously.

A very thought provoking post...

Shree Venkatram said...

Thank you, IHM. The case of Aruna Shanbaug that you refer to is really sad, and what a travesty of justice! Makes you cry. She has been in coma for 37 years till date, and the rapist Sohanlal Walmiki served six years in jail and has been living with his family and working in a Delhi hospital.
What kind of justice is this??
Moreover this man was not even tried for rape because he had anal sex! Who will educate our judges?
Here is a link to an article that describes four rape cases and where they stand today -

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