Sigmund Freud said “Men are more moral than they think and far more immoral than they can imagine.” The extreme brutality of the rape and murder of a woman in Hyderabad and a woman in Unnao is beyond imagination and has caught attention of the public more than ever before.
The Hyderabad police detained and killed all four accused, who had devised a cunning plan. The rape and killing of the woman understandably outraged the public. But the police response was a case of mob justice. History tells us, there is no dearth of trigger- happy governments. As one of the women lawyers rightly put it, “Nobody will ever know if the four men killed by the police were innocent men, arrested fast to show action. And whether four of the most brutal rapists roam free, to rape and kill more women.”
A key underlying issue in this and other similar incidents is intoxication. The incident in Hyderabad was alcohol, while the incident in Unnao was of power intoxication.
Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Talking to Strangers”, cites extensive research on alcohol, explains how under high intoxication one is at the mercy of their environment, oblivious to social and moral norms. All inner conflict and corrective mechanisms are lost, and one does what they subconsciously always believed and wanted to do. When blood alcohol crosses 0.15, the hippo campus shuts down entirely. In this “blackout” condition people can appear to function normally, but without retaining any memory.
Gladwell gives us an interesting story: A thirty-nine-year-old salesman awoke in a Las Vegas hotel room on Saturday the 14th. His last recollection was of sitting in a St. Louis bar on Monday the 9th where he had started drinking in the morning and at about 3 PM he went blank. He blacked out for five days. He had left the bar in St. Louis, gone to the airport, bought a plane ticket, flown to Las Vegas, found a hotel, checked in, shaved and functioned perfectly well all the while in blackout mode.
In Hyderabad, were the four accused in a blackout condition? Was a cunning plan out of reach of those who are blacked out? You never know. Only science can tell.
Therefore, to prevent these types of incidents from reoccurring, we need to do the following:
- Teach kids responsible drinking. In India, neither the family nor the education system teaches kids how to be responsible with alcohol so that as adults they are better able to consider their drinking habits. Like having a driver’s license, it would be a good idea to have a drinking license so that when they become adults, they consume alcohol responsibly;
- Get rid of easy access to alcohol, especially on highways;
- Focused police patrolling in high crime areas involving lorry, bus, cab drivers;
- Conduct mandatory and regular behavioural workshops for truck and cab drivers;
- Harsher punishment may instil fear in likely offenders but it may also perpetrate them killing of the victim as a witness. I do not see harsher punishment as a viable long term preemptive measure;
- Parents must facilitate and train children to rely on their instincts and thought processes in order to recognise and react to danger;
- Police regulated pick-ups for women at pubs or crime prone areas
Rape and murder incidents are on the rise as reckless youth who have increasing access to money, alcohol and power exploit vulnerable women. Perhaps it’s time we tried empirical approaches, popularised in the field of Economics by Nobel laureates such as Abhijit Banerjee, to tackle these incidents.