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Amid demands for faster execution of death sentences in the Nirbhaya case, several human rights activists got together in Delhi to talk to the media about the issue of sexual violence and death penalty.

The panel included activists Kavita Krishnan, documentary filmmaker Vani Subramaniam, and advocate Tara Narula among others.

The panelists discussed the role that the state played in order to distract the mass from other inequalities.

“Nobody is saying that those convicted should not be punished,” said All India Progressive Women’s Association president Kavita Krishnan. “We are on the side of women, of justice for survivors. But that means we want the focus to be on daily justice. Hanging convicted rapists is merely a distraction from this,” Krishnan said.

The panelists also highlighted the importance of the Justice Verma Committee recommendations and lauded the commission’s efforts to engage with the stakeholders. Vani Subramanian said that this was one of the few government commissions that made history.

However, according to the panelists most of the recommendations of the committee are yet to be implemented, including increase in the number of judges to ensure speedy and fair disposal of cases. Other recommendations include – insulating the police from external influences, training police and medical personnel who investigate sexual violence cases, disqualifying electoral candidates who are accused pending trial, encouraging street vending so that public spaces are safer at night, etc.

The committee is also against death penalty as a form of punishment in cases of sexual violence.

Tara Narula highlighted the obstacles one faced while availing investigative and legal process in the country. According to Narula, the legal and administrative hindrances lower the chances of conviction, which further limit the victim’s chances of fair trial.

“In a system so riddled with problems, can we ever give the irreversible death penalty? I believe not,” Narula was quoted saying by The Wire.

The panelists also criticized fast-track courts claiming that no thought or training had gone into setting up these courts and that these courts were meant only for the “glitz”.

While talking about death penalty, Vani Subramaniam, pointed out the Nirbhaya case is not the first time the death penalty has been given to convicted rapists – it has happened thrice in the past. However, those death sentences did not put an end to violence, said Subramaniam.

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