An Iranian woman was blinded and disfigured when a man threw acid in her face. Now, a court has held that his punishment should be to have five drops of acid dripped into each of his eyes.
“At an age at which I should be putting on a wedding dress, I am asking for someone’s eyes to be dripped with acid,” she said in a recent interview, as rain poured against the windows of her parents’ small apartment in a lower-middle-class neighborhood of Tehran. “I am doing that because I don’t want this to happen to any other women.”
I can’t blame her — I’m sure a lot of us would want the exact same thing, and revenge is a normal human emotion. I can understand her desire to use any mechanism possible to prevent this from happening to other women. I can understand the desire of the judges, and of her parents, and of her neighbors, to see this man pay for what he did.
But part of the point of a formal legal system is to temper individual desires for revenge. The point is to protect society and punish criminals in a fair and humane way; to deter crime while seeking just ends, not simply retributive ones; and to serve as a counter to vigilantism by concentrating power in the state (and by ensuring that citizens are confident in the state’s power to exact appropriate punishments). Dripping acid into someone’s eyes is not a “justice” system by any stretch. So while I’m glad this crime is being taken seriously and that the woman has had a chance to speak out against the man who attacked her, I am horrified that the punishment may be torture.
Women’s rights cannot be severed from human rights. Women’s rights at the expense of human rights are no rights at all.
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