It isn’t the severity of punishment but the certainty of punishment that causes the real deterrence
y heart weeps, and my eye bleeds to see the social fabric of our society torn asunder. Every day we wake up to news of someone being harassed, or assaulted, or murdered. These inhuman acts seem to be increasing. Our arbab-i-ikhtyar (those in the corridors of power) don’t seem to be doing much. At best, they are victim-blaming. They have a ready ‘excuse’ for such incidents: why was the woman out so late in the night? Why was she not covered from head to toe? Why did she step out of the house without an escort? Blah, blah, blah. These people are essentially rape apologists.
Yes, Islam ordains us to be modest in the way we dress up and handle our gaze in public places. Yes, easy access to porn can be provocative. But does that mean the government should sit out and do little about such unlawful acts?
Women don’t feel safe in this Land of the Pure. Pakistan is ranked the sixth most dangerous country in the world, by a Thomas Reuters’ poll. Moreover, Madadgar National Helpline has made a shocking revelation: 93 percent of women in the country have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. Such is the gravity of the issue. Whenever an incident of this sort takes place, we hear public outcries of punishing the culprits in a way that an example is made out of them. Mostly, the people call for capital punishment. This, they assert, will act as the ultimate deterrent. However, as a student of law, I have been taught that it is “not the severity of punishment but the certainty of punishment that causes the real deterrence.”
Our justice system, unfortunately, has failed to protect the women in our society. The conviction rate for gender-based violence is less than four percent. No wonder the perpetrators expect to be acquitted rather than convicted.
Pakistan has seen a number of anti-rape and anti-harassment bills and ordinances being passed in the parliament, but what became of them? Even the recently approved chemical castration of the rapist, as a punishment, in the Anti-Rape Ordinance 2020, seems to have failed to cause deterrence. The reason, in my view, is simple: lack of certainty of getting punished.
Our justice system, unfortunately, has failed to protect the women in our society. The conviction rate for gender-based violence is less than four percent. No wonder the perpetrators expect to be acquitted rather than being convicted. Hence, there has been no decrease in incidents of sexual violence over the years; only an increase.
To sum it up, our judicial system must provide speedy justice and ensure certainty of conviction and punishment. Otherwise, neither these sick minded perpetrators are going anywhere nor are we going to see the last of such heart-wrenching incidents.
The writer is a Lahore-based lawyer