Extreme measures


In an extremely rare show of inter-party solidarity, the upper house, on Monday, successfully opposed the motion seeking the public hanging of rape offenders.
Following the varied lines of argument that echoed from different corners to the dot, the country also seems divided on the issue. Reasonably so, some argue that such a punishment would serve as a deterrent to potential offenders while others believe that it violates human rights and dignity.
Because the UN has repeatedly stated that the death penalty, in any form, is a violation of fundamental rights and there’s little information available to substantiate public executions as an effective deterrence, lawmakers and rights advocates are perhaps fighting for a good cause. More worryingly, in a country like Pakistan, where unlawful practices go in both directions, the likelihood of innocents sentenced to death or the guilty evading the punishment altogether is extremely high. However, those on the other end of the spectrum question about the agonising ordeal of rape victims.
Rape is a heinous crime that causes immense physical and psychological trauma to the victim that lasts a lifetime. While the debate rages on, it is becoming extremely important to explore alternative solutions to address sexual violence in Pakistan. Improving access to justice for victims holds the key here. The criminal justice system needs to be reformed to ensure that victims receive timely and fair justice. If the state actually wishes to establish fear about the repercussions of letting the inner demons take a swing, law enforcement and prosecution of offenders would have to be considerably strengthened.
The measly conviction rate of three per cent speaks volumes about the skewed priorities of the police and the judiciary, who themselves require training in how to handle rape cases effectively. If the writ of the state becomes a force to be reckoned with, we do not need the support of these extreme measures, which would only serve to draw the ire of the international community and further entrench stereotypes.