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Death Penalty Doesn’t End Violence Against Women

Mukesh Singh, Pawan Gupta, Vinay Kumar Sharma and Akshay Thakur were executed today for the gangrape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in 2012. These executions mark a disheartening development in use of the death penalty in India. There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a particular deterrent to crime, and its use will not eradicate violence against women in India, said Amnesty International India today.

“Since August 2015, India had not executed anyone and it is unfortunate that four men were executed today in the name of tackling violence against women. All too often lawmakers in India hold up the death penalty as a symbol of their resolve to tackle crime. But what is actually needed are effective, long-term solutions like prevention and protection mechanisms to reduce gender-based violence, improving investigations, prosecutions and support for victims’ families. Far-reaching procedural and institutional reforms are the need of the hour”, said Avinash Kumar, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.

“The death penalty is never the solution and today’s resumption of executions adds another dark stain to India’s human rights record. Indian courts have repeatedly found it to be applied arbitrarily and inconsistently. Even the Justice Verma Committee, whose recommendations were relied upon to reform laws on sexual assault and rape in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case, had opposed imposing the death penalty in cases of rape. India is among a minority of countries which continue to use the death penalty. 140 countries, more than two-thirds of the world’s countries, around the world have abolished the death penalty in law or practice”, said Avinash Kumar.

The 2012 Delhi gang rape case involved a rape and fatal assault that occurred on 16 December 2012 in New Delhi.  The murder victim was a 23-year-old woman who was beaten, gang raped and tortured in a private bus in which she was travelling with her friend.

The incident generated widespread national and international coverage. Since Indian law does not allow the press to publish a rape survivor’s name, the woman was widely known as Nirbhaya.

As a result of widespread public calls for improved security for women, in December 2012, a judicial committee was set up to study and take public suggestions for the best ways to amend laws to provide quicker investigation and prosecution of people suspected of sexual offences. After considering about 80,000 suggestions, the committee submitted a report which indicated that failures on the part of the government and police were the root cause behind crimes against women and contained recommendations on a wide range of issues that impact the safety of women and gender discrimination, ranging from laws on violence against women, child sexual abuse and so-called “honour killings”; to principles of sentencing, the creation of adequate safety measures for women, police reforms, and electoral reform. The report opposed punishing rape with the death penalty.

“We call on the government of India to immediately establish a moratorium on executions and commute all death sentences, as first critical steps towards abolishing the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment”, said Avinash Kumar.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.


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