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June 12, 2019

Beyond the noose


June 12, 2019

After each terrible case involving the assault and quite often murder of small children after sexual abuse, we call for public executions or other severe punishment. This happened after 10-year-old Farishta was raped and then murdered on the outskirts of Islamabad in May this year. Last year, according to the child abuse watchdog, Sahil, 3,832 children, boys and girls, were subjected to sexual abuse. Ninety-two of them were murdered after the act. The assumption that the number of cases will fall if there are more executions or if these are meted out in public does not hold up. The rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab in January last year was followed by the execution of the perpetrator. There is no evidence from the figures from 2018 that this had a significant deterrent effect.

According to Sahil, an average of ten children are abused every day in the country. Among the latest cases to be reported were two from Karachi on Sunday, with a small girl and boy sexually abused in the Korangi area of the city. Like the many other similar cases which occur across the country, many carried out by individuals well known to the victims, there is no guarantee that those guilty of the assault will be punished. In most cases, the perpetrators get away scot-free.

This is where the heart of the problem lies. Crime analysts around the world have found that the knowledge that punishment will come in a majority of cases involving crime, and that it would be fairly meted out, is more significant in bringing down the rate of crime rather than the severity of the punishment. In the US, of 25 states where the murder rate is the highest, 20 use death as punishment. In the 25 states where the murder rate is the lowest, 14 have abolished the death penalty. Similar figures are available from around the globe. The lowest rates of crime often come from countries where there is no provision for execution. Findings also show that the death penalty, even more so when it is carried out in public, brutalises society and can contribute to an increase in violent crime. These statistics deserve discussion. We must not assume that simply hanging people or punishing them in other ways will end crimes such as rape, sodomy, and murder. To bring down the number of such offences, particularly when committed against children, it is essential that we continue to promote the reporting of crime and make more efforts to improve our system of police investigation and judicial trial so that a greater number can be brought to book. The knowledge that they will not get away with their crime may be the most important factor in preventing offences from being committed. It is this end we need to work towards.

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