Women MNAs belonging to the PTI, PML(N) and PPP delivered highly emotional speeches against the rape and murder of women and children during Friday’s sitting and made an impassioned plea for the public hanging of those who perpetrate the heinous crimes. Keeping in view several cases of the sort reported from across the country in the month of July alone, one can understand, though not justify, the demand for public hanging by the speakers.
Rapes are grossly under-reported in the country with most cases going unregistered with the police. The major hurdle is the tendency of a misogynistic society to blame female victims for bringing the crime on themselves by their appearance, actions, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time. In rural areas the local elite having close connection with the police, it is difficult for the poor to get a rape case registered against the powerful. Parents often avoid getting a case registered fearing that it would bring shame to the family. There have been cases of rape victims setting themselves ablaze after police failed to register the case or prepared a weak case leading to the influential rapist getting the bail or a clean chit.
While public hangings may assuage the widespread public outrage over the recent rape and murder cases, there is little to show that these would put an end to the widespread prejudice against women, improve the police working, or upgrade the investigation machinery to ensure the conviction of the accused.
There is no evidence to support the belief that enhanced punishments reduce the recurrence of gruesome acts. Public hangings were introduced by Ziaul Haq in 1981 to sentence a child molester and killer. These however failed to put an end to similar crimes against minors.
Countries with low crime rates do not punish their convicted criminals in horrendous ways while those which do so are not crime-free. Instead of enhanced punishments the government has to change the ‘thana culture’, improve and modernise the crime investigation system and ensure that no one who commits a crime can walk free. The fear that none can escape punishment is a greater disincentive than public hanging. One would agree with Federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari that only laws would not work because there was a need to change the mindset of society about women.