Activists urge Swati Maliwal to end hunger strike, says no evidence death penalty acts as deterrent to rape

New Delhi: A group of activists has appealed to Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal to end her hunger strike and reconsider her demand for capital punishment for rape of minors, saying there is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent.

In an open letter to Maliwal, who has been fasting for the last nine days, the activists said they were deeply troubled by her demand for death penalty for rape of minors and noted that in her capacity as the chair of a statutory body, it is essential that she understands and engages with the in-principle opposition that many representatives of the women's movement have against death penalty.

Activists urge Swati Maliwal to end hunger strike, says no evidence death penalty acts as deterrent to rape

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal on hunger strike against Unnao and Kathua rape cases, in New Delhi. PTI

"The issue of your demand for death penalty for rapists of minors that is being sought to be addressed by you is compelling us to raise some fundamental issues and concerns.

"There is no evidence to suggest that the death penalty acts as a deterrent to rape. The most important factor that can act as a deterrent is the certainty of punishment, rather than the severity of its form," the activists said in the letter.

In fact, the demand for death penalty often takes the attention away from the gravity of the real issue, that of ensuring that institutions charged with responsibility to end violence, undertake systemic reforms and measures to dismantle patriarchal social norms that result in gender and other forms of inequalities, they said.

"As we know, in cases of sexual violence where the perpetrator is in a position of power conviction is notoriously difficult. The death penalty, for reasons that have already been mentioned, would make conviction next to impossible," they said.

The activists demanded that focus remains on ensuring the certainty and swiftness of punishment rather than the severity of punishment.

"Given the fact that death penalty is an issue that is informed by a core ethical persuasion that each individual comes with, we also appeal to you not to impose this as the key solution to sexual violence on minors on all partnering civil society organizations and individuals.

"This militates against the basic tenet of right to individual and collective freedom of thought as well as freedom to uphold one's conscience and personal ethics. We request you to review and reflect upon your position on this issue and to end your indefinite hunger strike at the earliest," they said.

The letter was written by Vrinda Grover, Kavita Krishnan, Indira Jaising, Annie Raja, Bharti Ali, Akhila Sivadas, Maimoona Mollah, Pamela Philipose and Sehba Taban among others

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Updated Date: Apr 21, 2018 16:26:28 IST

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