Patriarchal values and the death penalty
January 2, 2013, 12:13 am
Filed under: By Rachel Zeng, Gender
Photo credit: Associate Press

Photo credit: Associate Press

Hearing about the death of the woman who was brutally raped and violently attacked in New Delhi was one of the saddest and most disturbing moment of 2012 as the year ended. Following the reports that described how she was being violently handled by 6 men and all the call for the death of her rapists/ murderers, I have realised that the world has not gotten anywhere more enlightened nor civilised.

Patriarchal values lead to sexism and gender inequality

Despite more equal opportunities for women in the areas of education and jobs as well as status in society, inequality between genders due to patriarchal values and sexism still reigns in many parts of the world and in many segments of society. To cut the long story short, I will keep the focus on India.

According to a report by Reuters, the men admitted to raping and torturing her in order to “teach her a lesson” after she and her male friend did not take their taunts (of being out alone at night with a man) lying down. The fact that she was alone at night with a man became a point for the group of men to pick on, was a sign of gross patriarchal values at work.

Patriarchal values exist within the police force as well… remember the case of the 17 year-old teenager who killed herself after the police pressurised her to drop the case and marry one of her attackers who had raped her? It left me very angry and disgusted. And according to an acquaintance of mine who currently works in New Delhi as a researcher, he told me that justice is almost always not being upheld when it comes to sexual crimes against women because their perpetrators are of a more superior gender. He said “The police will usually look for reasons to justify the rape. In other words, women are usually blamed for being out alone, being out too late at night, wearing clothes that show their curves or behaving suggestively.

As if the crime was not horrendous enough and as if sexism coming from men is not enough, Dr Anita Shukla, a woman scientist in India, blamed the victim for her own fate. According to Daily Bhaksar, she said that “Women instigate men to commit such crimes” and that the victim was being “insensible” for staying out after 10pm.

My goodness… that was utterly disgusting, especially coming from a woman. So while there is no restrictions for men to stay out as late as they want, women have to stay at home after a certain hour of the night to remain “sensible” and not “instigate” men to commit such crimes… how’s that for gender equality?

Now that says a lot about how deep patriarchal values have been embedded in India’s society… so much so that sexism and gender inequality can be expressed from both women and men from different segments of the society.

Blood for blood?

I disagree with the idea that the rapists who are now tried for murder, should be sentenced to death. Sentencing the brutal criminals to death is a short-cut method to “right” what has been wrong for a very long time. Rather, what is required is a social revolution that needs to happen immediately. Sentencing these men to death reeks of revenge and I believe that if a society is against murder, they should not practice the hypocrisy of supporting state sanctioned murder.

In my opinion, the death penalty will not change how women in India (or anywhere else in the world) are being treated and viewed as – weaker and inferior to men, and in some instances, sex objects that do not deserve equal respect as men. In order to change a society, the call of equal respect is required. Men needs to recognise that women and men are equally human beings. In July 2003, Marina Mahathir wrote:

“What prevents violence against women is instilling in men and boys the belief that women are equal human beings who are to be respected. Have we ever known an abuser to say that they think highly of their victims?”

The death penalty only creates fear and instilling fear is not an effective way to deal with crimes. The society has to understand why they should not violate another human being through violence and sexual crimes, rather than through fear of punishment which is temporary and which will never help to improve women’s standing in society at all.

In this very case of India, the only things that should be granted the death penalty, are patriarchy and sexism. And to be honest, patriarchy and sexism should have been given the death penalty a long time ago, all over the world.

Let us not forget our sense of humanity, just because something so inhumane has happened. Support justice and gender equality instead of the death penalty.

Note: There will be a candle-light vigil in honour of the victim happening on the evening of 2 Jan 2013. For more details, do check out the event page set up by the organiser.


15 Comments so far
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you are very joking, a bitch indeed! you don’t know that these people who commited the crime are poor, uneducated, no money, no meaning in life and low rung creature (like you)? and you did not fight for their rights?!! go to india and be screwed and fook like this girl, where is your champion of cause for Life? NOW YOU WANT THEM HANG? no la, bring them to Sg and treat them good meals in prision lor and everyday, you go preach to them and offer your cunt to them!

Comment by chongpang

Hi there, thank you for your vulgarities.

Please do read my blog post again because obviously I DID NOT ask for them to be hanged. Thank you very much and the next time you come here with your vulgar, patronising and sexist comments again, please note that it will not be published.

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Our friend above is pro death penalty. Don’t agree with you Rachel. It is very easy to be on the other side of the fence and talk about love and goodwill and be all goody goody. Yes this should be the base for humanity but for humans not for demons. Punishment also has it’s place and for a crime of this magnitude, punishment has to be equally extreme. We are not trying to make a joke out of this are we, by feeding these mosters with tax payers money for rest of their lives? Amanat’s father is a tax payer too. Death penalty is actullay very less, these 6 should be tourtured the same way to the extend that they beg for death. You are being very disrespectful to Amanat. In her statement to Delhi police she had asked for these men to be burned alive. Her wish should be granted. She has the right to be judge in this case, not you or me. This has happened to her, not you and me or any of the naive bloggers here. There was room for lesser penalty is they would have have just killed someone in one stroke without the tourture. Peace and well being to all except these monsters and wishing such an incident never ever happens to any living being. May Amanat be happy and peaceful whereever she is and may her perpetrators face horrific ends.

Comment by Jigs

Pro or anti-death penalty views are welcome here but immaturity, maliciousness and vulgar sexist remarks are not.

I do not agree with you but I respect your right to have your opinions.

I stand by my opinions and because I disagree with murder, I will not be a hypocrite by supporting state murder. That is my stand.

Here is a group you might be interested in reading about by the way:

And thanks for popping by with your opinions.

Cheers and have a good afternoon!

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Dear Rachel,

I share your outrage!

I dont know however if patriarchy is the probem. My definition of patriarchal values is benevolent, kindly and not sexist or overbearing. Women have been treated badly by men because evil is a reality in all human beings and this evil manifests itself in all sorts of ways. It is doubtful if the death penalty is the solution for cases like this.

Comment by Ah See

Dear Ah See,

Patriarchy brings about the idea that men is superior to women. This idea results in many of the suppression that women face nowadays, even in “modern” and “first world” societies.

I am for gender equality, not patriarchy, as patriarchal thoughts and values undermine the abilities and strengths of women, which in turn result in the sexist upbringing of girls (e.g, to be nurturer rather than a warrior) and treatment of women.

This is the perspective where I am coming from, which I had probably not explained well enough in my blog post. Although we disagree on that point, I respect your perspective and thank you for sharing. Do not hesitate to comment further on what I have just mentioned above yea.

Cheers and goodnight! 🙂

Comment by rachelabsinthe

Reblogged this on Roderick's Journal.

Comment by rodsjournal

You need to be a VICTIM yourself! Is a bitch like you that even your Sg Minister is concerned..Taiwan just hanged 7 notorious criminals for crime to describe you would not believe,in fudal system, YOU AND YOUR FAMILY should be skined, raped, touture for harboring and keeping such evil intend of the heart, YOU SHOULD GO TO INDIA, THE LADY SHOULD NOT BE DEAD AND RAPED, IS YOU! I CHALLENGE YOU TO DO THAT AND WITH YOU GUTS, BITCH CUNT AND BELEIFS, WHY NOT DO INSTEAD OF HAVING SG POLICE AND PEOPLE PROTECTING YOU AND YOUR FAMILY, go to be fooked there and DOT JUST TALK WITH YOU BITCH CUNT!

Comment by chongpang

First you accused me of not maintaining my stand against the death penalty, then when I clarified that you have misread my post you tell me that I should be doing the opposite, along with all your vulgar crap. Do you think I really take people like you seriously?

You talk about the Singapore Police Force? Right. I hope you know that you are not exactly anonymous even though you try your best to be.

Anyway, you should spend your time elsewhere, doing something more productive instead of making vulgar attempts to “hurt” me. I don’t give a shit about “anonymous” trolls like you online to be honest. There is a huge difference between malicious trolling and civilised disagreement. The former will do anything to slam someone, the latter will actually think deeper about the issue.

No prizes for guessing rightly which category you belong to.


Comment by rachelabsinthe

Well-thought out blog post, Rachel. I had similar thoughts on this particular incident i.e. how patriarchy and religious conservatism are the belief structures responsible for perpetuating violence and discrimination against women globally. I think many of us can understand how calls for the death penalty towards the perpetuators has become a highly charged and emotional reaction against her death and what it symbolises and/ or represents to those living (and who wants justice to be done). If we allow ourselves to enter into a more rational thinking mode with some distance, justice is never equivalent to mob rule (or even majoritarian opinion).

Comment by Charles

dont be too quick to stereotype religous conservatives as pàrt of belief structures which opress the vulnerable. There are religious conservatives who believe in justice issues and who are inclined to see the viewpoint of progressives.

Comment by Ah See

hello! your first point is right. in a society, where it is very patriarchal and ‘tradition-based’, there is a lot of discrimination and blame towards the ‘oppressed’ and yes, many crimes against women are constantly blamed on the women themselves .
i think that it is also a given that women in the society has been socialised since birth to accept that men is the ‘absolute authority’ and therefore it is thus ‘natural’ for them to support men, who are often the perpetrators in sexual violence.
i honestly think that before even talking about gender equality, it is even more important to give education to women. women are often denied education in patriarchal societies and so they MUST receive education to escape the clutches of the patriarchal society. Give them education and it could possibly enlighten them on the discrimination that they are facing.
you are very right but you must focus on the macro factors that are affecting india’s society. imo, it isn’t wise to go straight into details 🙂

i think that the death penalty should be meted out to the perpetrators of the rape incident. i really think that india has a ‘failed’ judiciary system and what more, a broken law enforcement system. there is simply no point implementing ‘soft’ measures when it can’t be enforced at all!
gender equality and egalitarianism is one thing, but how long do you want to wait before that is achieved without the use of ‘fear’ to control the people?
in a society that is based on tradition and values, fear is the best way to control people from deviance, especially in one with an ‘uncivilised’ society.
implementing the death penalty will be a ‘sure’ deterrent from preventing such brutality from happening again and while that is in effect, india can work to become a more egalitarian society 🙂
(and of course, the decision as to whether the death penalty still needs to be retained under ‘egalitarian’ circumstances)

[and the commentators that insulted you are quite dumb, it is quite obvious from all the gender insults they gave you, we know whose side they are really on, unconsciously 🙂 ]

peace to you and nice article

god bless

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