By George Davis
Bedlam. Anarchy. Tumult. Those are but three of a slew of graphic and vivid descriptors journalists could use to define the events which may unfold in the urban centres of India if the six men accused of the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student on December 16 last year are not sentenced to hang at the end of their 'fast-track' trial now under way in Delhi.
The masses inside and outside India have already convicted the men, and if the judge wants millions of people to drop stone dead in shock, all he has to do is return a not-guilty verdict at the end of the deliberations.
The ghastly details of the incident, as told by the male companion of the deceased, have correctly riled the Indian public into demanding that the rights of women be affirmed and respected in one of the world's most hierarchical and male-dominated societies.
No one believes the accused are innocent. Based on public sentiment, it would appear as if not even the Carlos Slims and Bill Gates of this world could buy an atom of sympathy for a band of men accused of one of the worst crimes known to man.
WHAT IF IT'S NOT TRUE?
But the condemnation of the accused and the baying for their blood in a case which appears to be as open and shut as they come have somehow got me thinking about the numerous instances of men being ruined after a false accusation of rape has been levelled against them.
What the sentiments about this particular case are telling us is that rape is a crime for which the accused should not enjoy the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Many will agree with this. And they will be wrong. People tend to believe that where outrage can be justified, the law must slink into the background and allow for the liberal application of a kind of retribution greater in degree than the crime committed.
Our world is one in which the mere allegation of a crime such as rape, especially perpetrated against women and children, prompts automatic condemnation and demands for the summary execution of justice. We care not about hearing the motivation of the rape accused in these circumstances. Instead, we determine that the nature of the crime invalidates the need to even attempt to reform those responsible for a truly gruesome act.
How many men have been hauled out of their offices, off their work sites, out of their homes, by policemen who say an allegation of rape has been made against them? How many men have been carted off to jail because of the convincing display of an alleged victim, purging her soul through bloodshot eyes while recounting the ordeal to the lawmen?
How many men have been shamed to such a degree by the allegations that, even after being cleared upon investigation, they'll never regain the respect and prestige of friends and family? How deep is the face of the false accused burned into our consciousness, even as the identity of the false accuser is fiercely protected and kept secret? Why should a man be left to pick up the pieces of a broken family, career and spirit after being cleared of a rape charge, while his accuser simply resumes her pre-lie existence?
In the Jamaican context, rape is too serious a crime for a case to be allowed to turn on the strength of the accuser's testimony against the weakness of the alleged perpetrator's defence. If for no other crime on the law books, the best technology and expertise must be availed to assist in the investigations and aid the court proceedings. Guilty persons should be locked up and liars fined by the court.
Rape is a crime that has to be managed with kid gloves to ensure victims are emboldened to come to court, knowing full well that there's a system which will dispense timely justice based on the testimonial and scientific evidence related to their case.
It's also a crime in which the police need to be extra careful in dealing with a suspect, lest their conduct damage a man who could very well be exonerated in a court of law.
George Davis is a journalist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.