In Mumbai, India the conviction of men responsible for gang rapes around an abandoned mill in the poverty-stricken city has become the flashpoint for a larger societal issue. The death sentence for three perpetrators has come from a governmental response equating these acts with terrorism, and proceeding from public outcry the message is being made loud and clear that enough is enough.
The special prosecutor assigned to the case, Ujjwal Nikam, said the offense of rape leaves permanent scars beyond the physical, and for the damage committed against these women’s minds and chastity that the “right signal” must be sent to society. As a public attorney, Nikam was known for his hardliner approach to terrorists, obtaining 30 death sentences and putting 628 criminals in prison for life. He also said that the death penalty was a result of justice, not revenge, for not only the victim and her relatives but for all of society.
Judge Shalini Phansalkar-Joshi agreed, saying that these rapes were perpetrated in a “gruesome and diabolical manner” and without any mercy, and that a zero tolerance policy must be adopted for the honor of Indian culture.
Salim Ansari, Vijay Jadhav, and Mohammed Kasim Sheikh were sentenced to death for raping a 22-year-old photojournalist and an 18-year-old call-center operator last summer. In both cases, the perpetrators were unemployed and spent their time at an abandoned textile building called the Shakti Mills, where they repeatedly grabbed women who wandered into the area and admitted to the assault of at least five.
It should be noted that Shakti in sanskrit means “empowerment,” representing the manifestation of primordial creative energy related to the divine feminine, and within Hinduism is referred to as “The Great Mother” as a representation of respect and fertility.
Unfortunately, this case has become a symbol for the growing plight of Indian society and what has been called a “systemic” problem in their culture, where rape victims are punished for coming forward, labeled with invisible Scarlet Letters, and become known as “that kind of girl,” as if they asked for it or could have possibly deserved it. The woman is doubted first, not the man, and because of this, gang rape has become an epidemic not just in Mumbai but in poor regions around the world. Finally, the sentencing and conviction of those responsible shows that India at least has the basic comprehension that it is the job of honorable men to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and in the case of society guarding their sacred females, India reached its boiling point in 2012 when a 23 year old physiotherapy student was gang raped and viciously murdered on a moving bus in Delhi.
The case was so overt that the government was forced to respond, because the wave of protests that followed this young woman’s brutal death unleashed what had been kept quiet by the apathy of weak-willed men. Reports of sexual assault skyrocketed when the previously silent women started coming forward en masse, forcing Indian Parliament to strengthen their laws and create a special court to hear the cases and treat them as acts of national terrorism.
People disbelieve what their minds cannot fathom, and this leads some to lack the capacity to understand that true evil exists in this world and must be eradicated for the safety of the innocent. The matter to them becomes academic and they question the nature of sympathy in ivory towers, riddled with Avoidance Personality Disorders that bear no connection to the monumental suffering of the victims. With the case in Mumbai, testimony from the police shows that the defendants showed no worry over interference from the authorities, and that they summoned each other to these gang rapes by phone using the code phrase “the prey has arrived.”
They then proceeded to film their assaults upon these women, leaving them battered and sending them off with a warning that if they reported the rape, the photographs would be released to the public. Knowing that Indian culture would treat the women as garbage, and even suspects of immorality, these predators of females continually terrorized victim after victim. The true number of how many they tortured will never be discovered.
Luckily for Indian ethics, the 22-year-old photojournalist went directly to the hospital and reported what happened, and after the case made headlines, the 18-year-old telephone operator came forward as well, saying that she had been raped a month earlier at the same place. Incapable of ignoring their pleas for justice, the police arrested five men and quickly recorded their confessions.
The new law states that repeat offenders will be sentenced to life in prison, a mandatory conviction, and according to prosecutorial discretion may be given the death penalty. In the Mumbai case, two of the five participants in the gang rapes were given life sentences due to their involvement in only one of each of the assaults, and were given leniency because they were not a part of the core group of serial rapists. In the Delhi bus attack, four men were sentenced to death as a declaration that undeserved regard for criminals is reinforcing the problem.
Retribution is the only deterrent capable of reinforcing morality through law, yet the Mumbai gang rape sentencing is not about revenge, but rather justice to stem the tide of an epidemic of assault against the well-being of half the human species. Women are being torn to pieces around men who allow it to happen, and who denounce them after the fact as if they were actually to blame for the darkness wrought upon them. The Ancient Romans had no religion, they stole it from the Greeks, and so when Augustus Caesar began his rule and crime spread through the impulses of evil men under his dominion, he instituted a law in which repeated rapists would be burned alive. After that the Pax Romana, or Roman “Peace,” lasted for 206 years. Impersonal law is the foundation of Themis, the Greek blindfolded goddess with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other, showing that judgment is not only balanced but must be as cold as the criminals who left their victims with nothing. Mercy is for the innocent alone.
By Elijah Stephens
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