Delhi rape: Court rules suspect to be tried as juvenile

One of the suspects in last month’s fatal gang rape of a 23-year-old student which shocked India is a minor, a court has ruled.

The Juvenile Justice Board said it accepted the accused’s date of birth as 4 June 1995, making him 17 years old. He will be tried in a juvenile court.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of three years in a reform facility.

Five other accused are on trial for the crime at a specially convened fast-track court and face the death penalty.

The case has shocked India and sparked a debate about its treatment of women.

A lawyer present in the court said a magistrate announced the decision after going over documents presented to the court by officials of the suspect’s elementary school, which indicated that he was a juvenile at the time of the attack, Associated Press reported.

The physiotherapy student, who cannot be named in India for legal reasons, and a male friend were attacked on a bus in south Delhi on 16 December.

Police said the assailants beat both of them, and then raped the woman. She suffered massive internal injuries and died nearly two weeks later in hospital.


Durkheim and his theory on crime

Durkheim argues that crime is inevitable for two main reasons:

  1. Everyone is socialised differently and some people may not be effectively socialised. Poor socialisation means that they do not accept the shared norms and values of mainstream society which can make them deviant.
  2. Modern society is also very complex, and especially large cities, there are many people with many different cultures and lifestyles in a concentrated area. This causes the formation of subcultures and the subcultures may have norms and values that do not agree with the norms of mainstream society. For example, in some African cultures it is acceptable to eat with hands but if an African was residing in Europe, mainstream European society may see this as deviant.

Durkheim also believes that there tends to be anomie (normlessness) in modern society caused by the special division of labour. Everyone does their own thing and that leads to a weakened social solidarity and value consensus and Durkheim believes this leads to high levels of crime and deviance.

The functions of crime

It is common belief that Functionalists would argue that crime is bad for society because it can lead to the breakdown of it. Imagine a society where everyone ran by their own rules and there was no control whatsoever. However Durkheim shows that, yes, to much crime is bad but too little crime is also bad for society. He highlights the two functions of crime within any society:

  1. Boundary maintenance – the whole purpose of the law and justice system is to “dramatise evil” in order to act as a warning to the law-abiding citizens. Do you remember the huge media frenzy about Anders Breivik? He was so big thatthey had to make a special court just for him! It’s aim is to reaffirm the good values within them which increases social solidarity.
  2. Adaption and change – when individuals challenge or go against the norms of their society, at first they are seen as deviants. However challenging the norms of a society is what allows it to adapt and grow so that society can meet the functions of its members. Think of the Suffragettes who challenged patriarchy in order to create society that was in support of women. If society is very controlling then it does not allow this adaption to occur causing it to stagnate. A good example is China which is very oppressive towards anyone that challenges its ideologies and beliefs.

Other functions of crime

  • Davis and Polsky – crime such as prostitution and pornography protected nuclear family as it provides a safe way to release sexual frustrations and desires (assuming neither partner gets caught…)
  • Cohen – crime is a warning for when lead institution is failing. For example, a rise in truancy may be warning that the education system is not meeting the needs of all its members
  • Erikson – the role of agencies such as the police and courts is to maintain a certain level of crime rather than rid crime completely. They also manage and regulate deviants rather than prevent it. For example, young people’s crime may go unpunished as it may be a way of dealing with the transition to adulthood. (A great excuse…)


  • Durkheim doesn’t state which level of crime is the right amount
  • Just because crime has a function in society does not necessarily mean that society is deliberately creating crime in order for the functions of it to be prevalent.
  • It doesn’t focus on how crime affects individuals or groups in society
  • It also doesn’t recognise that crime can weaken solidarity and increase isolation – most women stay in at night due to the fear of rape.

Merton: Strain theory

Merton is a functionalist and a study of the American dream led to the creation of strain theory. Merton argues that the American dream is solely based on monetary success and the belief that the American society is meritocratic – if you work hard enough you can all be successful and rich. However Merton argues that society is not like that in reality, factors such as age; ethnicity; sexuality and class can put people at a disadvantage in society. Here he highlights the basis of strain theory:

“Strain occurs when there is a gap between the goals society encourages and how this can be achieved legitimately”.

For example, in society encourages everyone to have a car and a home with a white picket fence but discrimination society means only those of the white upper-middle-class can achieve this, the disadvantaged group will then turn to crime to reach the goal.

The characteristic of the American dream that Merton discovered was that it laid more emphasis on becoming successful then doing so legitimately. It was more important that you played the game rather than playing it by the rules. This led to a rise in utilitarian (practical) crimes such as fraud and theft and Merton refers to this as the strain to anomie.

Responses to strain

Merton realises that not everyone in society will respond strain in the same way. He argues that a person’s social position can affect the way they respond to strain. Merton has identified five reactions to strain in society:

  1. Conformity – members of this group will accept the goals of society and the need to do so legitimately. This is more likely to occur in the upper classes but it’s typical of most Americans.
  2. Innovators – they accept the goal of society but have created “new” illegitimate ways of achieving these goals. More likely to occur within the lower classes or any disadvantaged group within society
  3. Ritualism – members of this group have rejected the goals of society but have accepted the need for legitimate behaviour. Think of people who are in dead-end jobs. They work because it’s the right thing to do but they have no aspirations.
  4. Retreatism – these people have completely rejected because the society and its legitimate behaviour and they, in effect, dropout from society. Examples of this are chronic drunks, tramps, drug addicts, vagabonds etc
  5. Rebels – rebels reject the goals society because they want to replace them with new ones. They want to cause a revolution and create a better society for all. A good example would be hippies or eco-warriors.

Criticisms of Merton

  • This video is a really good critique of the American Dream the theory’s based on: TYT;
  • He takes official statistics on crime at face value. These stats are biased and present a working-class phenomenon of crime but it may simply be the fact that upper-class crime is not easily discovered rather than in not existing.
  • Merton can only explain utilitarian crimes such as fraud and theft that obviously help to improve one’s monetary status, but it does not explain state crimes such as genocide or smaller scale crimes such as rape and GBH.
  • His theories also to deterministic – not everyone will respond as he said
  • It ignores the power of the ruling class to criminalise the poor
  • And it assumes that everyone believes in this value consensus of shared goals but some may reject it and therefore feel no strain

Official data ‘masking suicides’

Suicide rates in England and Wales may be higher than officially stated because the way coroners record deaths has evolved, research suggests.

Academics say narrative verdicts, which describe the circumstances surrounding a death, make it more difficult for statisticians to identify suicides than traditional inquest recordings.

The Office for National Statistics says 4,648 people took their lives in 2009.

It says it is confident in data showing rates falling but is reviewing methods.

Coroners argue that their legal duties remain unchanged and that they require a high standard of proof to record a suicide.

Most of the 30,000 inquests conducted each year in England and Wales are concluded with traditional short-form verdicts, such as death by unlawful killing, accident or natural causes.

But narrative verdicts have grown in use – from 111 in 2001, to 3,012 in 2009 – often as a result of coroners raising matters of public concern, such as inadequacies in the procedures of a hospital or care home where someone has died.



‘Misleading evaluation’

However, the University of Bristol’s Prof David Gunnell says these verdicts make it difficult for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to classify deaths.

“As the use of narrative verdicts rises, so too may the underestimation of suicide,” he wrote in an editorial in the British Medical Journal, with colleagues from the Universities of Oxford and Manchester.

This could lead to misleading evaluation of national and local suicide prevention strategies and a masking of the effects of economic difficulties on suicide rates, they suggest.

“Furthermore… suicide rates may (falsely) seem to decline in areas served by coroners who make most use of such verdicts,” they add.

While coroners must be sure of intent to be able to record suicide verdicts, statisticians use less stringent criteria to identify when someone has killed themself.

The academics note that in verdicts containing phrases like “deceased took his own life with an accidental overdose”, intent is not mentioned.

But despite suicide being strongly implied, the ONS might class it as an accident.

Some coroners may also give short-form verdicts in the belief that this avoids adding to a family’s distress, Prof Gunnell suggests.

While the ONS is reviewing its coding of narrative verdicts, a spokesman said it was confident “the overall picture of current suicide trends shown by national statistics is reliable”.

However, he added: “The variation in practice by different coroners means that local figures could be less reliable. We are working with coroners, and others concerned, to resolve these issues.”

If suicide is proved, no other conclusion is considered” Andre Rebello Coroner

6 Arguments for Secularisation

1. Rationalisation

Weber argues that the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther in the 16th Century led to rational ways of thinking replacing supernatural beliefs. It led to the belief that God simply created the world and does not intervene in it. This is known as disenchantment and it contributed to secularisation as people began to view and understand the world scientifically.

Possible critique(s): The theory only focuses on the West and Catholocism.

2. Structural Differentiation

Structural differentiation is the process of speecialisation that occurs through the development of industrial society. Parsons argues that this led to religion being being disengaged from modern society. Before the Industrial Revolution religion was the main source of education and social welfare but these functions have been lost to a secular state and religion is now a privatized part on religion that is personal choice. This is shown by the number of countries that keep religion and the state seperate such as USA, France and Britain.

Possible Critique(s): Northern Ireland is an exception. It is modern and industrialised but the Church js closely linked with the state.

3. Social and Cultural Diversity

Wilson and Bruce argue that the Industrial Revolution led to secularisation. It caused the break up of small, close-knit communities that often expressed themselves through their religion because therecwas a need for the workforce to geographically mobile (move around easily). This meant that new people with various backgrounds and religious beliefs were entering these communities. This reduced the plausibility of religion as everyone’s belief could not be true. The lack of a dominating religion also made it difficult for people to remain religious as it is easier to believe in something if many people practice it as well.

Possible critique(s): Despite the cultural diversity, people may use religion as a form of identity – this links to Huntington and the Clash of Civilisations. Also some religions have created ‘imagined communities so that they feel more connected in a globalised world, e.g televangelism.

4. Religious diversity

Berger argues Catholicism held a monopoly on truth and society was under a ‘sacred canopy’ (basically one belief system). After the Protestant Reformation, the rise of Protestants and other sects that broke away from the  Church led to a ‘plurality of worldviews’ – varying interpretations of the truth. This led to a crisis for credibility and secularisation.

Possible Critique(s): Berger changed his mind later on and now argues that religion can stimulate interest and participation – links to spiritual shopping and religious market theory. Beckford argues that religious diversity has the ability to strengthen faith not always weaken it.

5. Cultural Defence & Cultural Transiton

Bruce argues that religion is used for either cultural defence or cultural transition. Cultural defence is when religion is used as a way defending a culture that is under threat. For example, in Poland Catholicism was a key part of Polish culture that was being oppressed by a Communist state. However, some people still practised their religion in secret as it was a way of expressing their culture. The Catholic church eventually played a key part in overthrowing the state which is another example of religious social change.

Cultural transition is when religion is used to help with the transition to a new society – mainly used by ethnic minorities. E.g when migrants enter the Uk, Bruce argues they will uses places like Mosques or Synagogues as a meeting place where they can make mini communities, find out about job/housing vacancies or feel connected to their culture.

Although it seems to disprove secularisation, Bruce shows religion only thrives when it provides a function to the individual that is more than relating to the supernatural. If you look at Poland, now that they are free to practice their religion, church attendance has fallen.

Possible critique(s): What about the people who are not migrants and are not under threat that practice religion continuosly?

6. A Spiritual Revolution?

Heelas and Woodhead had a theory: Traditional religion is declining and being replaced by New Age spirituality such as crystal healing, aromatherapy, self help books etc. They tested this theory and found out the following:

In Cumbria there were two types of groups – the congregational domain (traditional religion) and the holistic milieu (New Age). Traditional religion was in decline and they argued that this was  because it demanded high discipline and objective which did not fit into post modern society that places importance on the individual. Hence why the New Age and Evangelical churches were growing in Cumbria, they had a subjective view encouraged self-growth and healing.

Despite this, Heelas and Woodhead found that the rise in the New Age was not equal to the fall in tradition. So the New Age was not replacing traditional religion.

Possible critique(s): The study is based one country which means that it is not representative and therefore cannot explain the world.

Sara Ege: Life jail for son’s murder over Koran studies

A mother who beat her seven-year-old son to death when he failed to memorise passages from the Koran has been jailed for life, for a minimum of 17 years.

The judge told Sara Ege, 33, she subjected Yaseen Ege to prolonged cruelty and a ferocious beating at home in Pontcanna, Cardiff, in July 2010.

She also set fire to his body, and was convicted after a five-week trial.

Ege collapsed as the sentence was read out at Cardiff Crown Court and had to be helped from the dock.

“This prolonged cruelty culminated on the day of his death in what was a savage attack” said Mr Justice Wyn Williams Cardiff Crown Court

She was also found guilty of perverting the course of justice and given a four-year sentence for that crime.

Her husband Yousuf Ege, a taxi driver, was cleared of allowing the death of a child by failing to protect him.

Sara Ege had pleaded not guilty to murder and claimed her husband was responsible for Yaseen’s death.

‘Prolonged cruelty’

Mr Justice Wyn Williams said: “I am satisfied that it was his failure to learn the Koran that day that resulted in the beating that caused his death.”

He continued: “On the day of Yaseen’s death you had kept him home from school so he could devote himself to his study of the Koran.

“He was memorising passages but on that day Yaseen must have failed in some way and it was that which was a trigger for the beating.

“You killed your own son. At the time of the killing he was particularly vulnerable because of his age and because of his relative physical frailty.

“In killing your son you abused a precious relationship of trust which does and should exist between a parent and a child.”

After the sentencing, a serious case review was published, making seven recommendations for improvements, and said domestic violence involving the family had first been reported in 2003, and again in 2007.

But the review said while lessons could be learned, Yaseen’s death could not have been predicted.

The judge said she had beaten him for three months leading up to his death, adding: “The cause of the beating was your unreasonable view that he wasn’t learning passages quickly enough.

“The violence Yaseen suffered was not confined to the day of his death.”

“For three months you beat him often with a wooden pestle and I’m confident these beatings left him in a significant amount of pain.

“This prolonged cruelty culminated on the day of his death in what was a savage attack. You then set fire to his body in an attempt to evade responsibility for what you had done.

“I accept you were a devoted and caring mum. Except for the obsession with Yaseen learning you did many fine things to bring him up as a young boy.”

Theories of science

Science seems like an odd topic in an a Unit that is mainly about religion but the Unit is called Beliefs and science is a belief system.

An open belief sysetem

According to Popper, science is an open belief system that is governed by falsification. This means that the aim of science is to constantly try and prove existing theories as false so knowledge improves. This means that in science there is no absolute or sacred truth and everything is open to scrutiny by the scientific community which means there is a possibility for a theory to be proven wrong. What this shows is that scientific knowledge is constantly building up – it’s cumalative. This differs from religion which has a fixed, sacred truth that cannot be challenged.

The CUDOS norms

Merton, a Functionalist, argues that every belief system has a set of norms and values. These are the norms for science:

Communism – scientific knowledge is not private, it must be shared so it can grow.

Universalism – scientific knowledge is judged by universal, objective criteria (not influence by age, gender or ethnicity etc)

Disinterestedness – committed to studying science for science’s sake – no vested interest

Organised Sceptism – no knowledge is sacred and everything is open to scrutiny