A few months ago in France, neighbours united to kill their paedophile neighbour. This kind of event is very unusual in France but recently more and more people want to have done with paedophiles. Strong arguments have been raised in favour of the restoration of death penalty for this crime. Nowadays, you can frequently hear French people say: “I am against the death penalty, but...”.
The death penalty was abolished in France in 1981 thanks to the Attorney General Robert Badinter. Irony of fate, one of the last criminals executed was guilty of murdering a child. When the death penalty was abolished, a majority of French people were in favour of this decision but very quickly opinion polls showed that people had begun to change their minds. Nowadays, some politicians even speak out for the reestablishment of the death penalty in the case of crimes against children.
The French media devotes a lot of time to stories involving repeat-offender paedophiles, strengthening the people’s feeling that the law cannot find an effective solution to this problem. The recent vigilante mob is a good example of what people can do when they think they have to protect their children against paedophiles. In this story, two mothers chose to act by themselves after their daughters complained of this neighbour’s behaviour.Of course the law declines to accept that people can take law into their own hands, and people who kill a paedophile or any other criminal, in turn, become criminals themselves. Thankfully French law does not consider as justifiable the fact that you claim to act in the interest of people. I hardly dare imagine what chaos a country would be in if its law accepted everyone taking justice into his or her own hands.
The fact is that in Europe at the moment, the law is having difficulty finding an effective solution against the flail of paedophilia. Even though a reestablishment of the death penalty is inconceivable in France, as France signed a European protocol in 2002 which bars the death penalty in the European Union, the death penalty still appears to be the best solution for some people. The majority, however, agree that the death penalty is a cruel punishment and on the supposition that it would be re-established only for crimes against children, how would we set limits? For example, up to what age are we still considered 'children'? Can the death penalty only be applied against repeat offender criminals? Etc.
Thus the solution is not in the reestablishment of the death penalty and we cannot accept that ordinary citizens dispense justice either. Paedophilia should be judged and punished according to the laws of the time, considering that the judicial system reflects how humane or inhumane a society can be. Certain forms of paedophilia have not always been considered as criminal; in Ancient Greece, philosophers had sexual relationships with young boys and everybody thought it was absolutely natural. Nowadays, in some states and regions it is still culturally and sometimes even legally acceptable for forty-year-old men to marry fourteen-year-old girls... At the same time we can also question the legitimacy of punishment by torture, mutilation or perhaps inflicting death. So, what are our choices to protect the society and the innocents from criminals such as paedophiles? Is it only to get rid of them by killing them? Are there not more humane ways to treat the problems of a modern society?
(paintings by Benoit Vermander)
|Written by : June LEE
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