A few months ago, CCTV cameras recorded footage of a young school girl being robbed by a bandit. It must have been a terrifying experience for the child.
The incident deeply distressed the public. The comments which followed the posting of the video on social media were not complimentary.
Persons called for extreme forms of extrajudicial justice to be meted out to the perpetrator. Some asked for an arm and a leg; others for death and others for slow, painful torture.
There is hardly a person who does not rebuke incidents of robbery. It is not about the value of what was taken but the violation that someone feels upon being deprived of what is theirs. Even when there is an attempt at robbing someone, the sense of indignation is acute.
The public is so outraged by such incidents that they demand extreme punishment for the perpetrators. They do not realize that the extrajudicial measures they call for, such as “hanging them high” contributes to the cycle of violence in society.
A few day ago, a video surfaced of an alleged thief being captured by residents. Just beneath his left eye was swollen to the point where it was oozing blood,
Yet, despite this fact, persons could be seen inflicting lashes and kicks to the alleged thief, causing the swelling below the eye to bleed more. This is the callous violence which is meted out to persons accused of stealing.
And such violence is supported by a large numbers of persons.
The message of this type of violence is that if someone steals or attempts to steal from you, then that person deserves a sound licking.
This sort of philosophy perpetuates the cycle of violence in our society. It contributes to the high incidence of violence since it is seen countenancing extrajudicial retaliation.
The authorities have not been able to stem this form of extrajudicial violence because they too tend to agree with such actions. They support licks for thieves.
A few years ago, residents in an area in the city caught a thief. They tied him to a lantern post and beat him mercilessly. He died from his injuries.
There was no public outrage or outcry because the public has little sympathy for thieves and little respect for their human rights.
This is the prime reason why the cycle of violence continues unabated. The condemnation of violence is too selective. When it comes to thieves there are few restraints on the use of violence.
Violence solves nothing. It only begets more violence.
The cycle of violence must be broken. This can be done only if people accept that human rights apply to everyone and not just to those who are not bandits or larcenists.
To break the cycle of violence – including in the home – a few things can help substantially. First, outlaw corporal punishment in schools and at home. Flogging school children is an act of violence. It is uncivilized to institutionalize violence in schools.
Nor should violence be condoned in home. It should be made illegal for children to be struck by anyone, including their parents.
Second, the police should charge any person found beating an alleged thief or bandit. They should be charged along with the suspected criminal.
Thirdly, all those who take to social media, in support of extreme violent retribution on thieves, should be discouraged from their endorsement of these measures.
People should not be supporting extreme extrajudicial licks for thieves.
In other words, until human rights are guaranteed to all without regard to the crime, the violence will not end.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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