Friday, July 17, 2015

Rape, honor and the Supreme Court

"We would like to clearly state that in a case of rape or attempt of rape, the conception of compromise under no circumstances can really be thought of. These are crimes against the body of a woman which is her own temple. These are offences which suffocate the breath of life and sully the reputation. And reputation, needless to emphasize, is the richest jewel one can conceive of in life. No one would allow it to be extinguished. When a human frame is defiled, the “purest treasure”, is lost. Dignity of a woman is a part of her non-perishable and immortal self and no one should ever think of painting it in clay. There cannot be a compromise or settlement as it would be against her honor which matters the most. "


The recent SC judgement (State of MP vs Madanlal) slammed any attempt of mediation between a rape victim and his/her perpetrator as a "spectacular error". Before you laud this judgement as "landmark", pause and think.

 Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is legally allowed mostly in cases where two parties are aggrieved and both claim that their rights have been violated like in a property dispute or a divorce settlement. But in a rape case, only one party is victimized. There are countries where victim offered mediation is possible even in rape cases. The victim expresses the impact of that incident on her life and the perpetrator the rationale that egged him to commit such a crime. With well trained counselors mediating such a process, often the perpetrator is reformed and the victim no longer feels victimized after she gets answers and is in a position to grant mercy.

 But such a system for restorative justice is not matured in India. Allowing mediation here is not only painful and disrespecting of the victim but also opens gaps for getting away easily by monetary settlement or offer for marriage, none of which can bring true justice to the victim. For the same reason, based on Justice Verma recommendations, an amendment was brought about in Sec 376 of IPC last year - an entire section about awarding lesser punishment for rape on "special grounds" like marriage offer, passage of time etc. was omitted. Also since rape is not a compoundable offence, the case has to go for trial. Hence, credit to the SC for reiterating this and making it clear.

However, with any SC judgement carrying the weight of a benchmark law, certain prudence in choice of words is a must. By reiterating that rape leads to a suffocated life and sullied reputation, it is just endorsing the reason for which this brutal crime occurs in the first place. Rape is not just a sexual act but one of domination. It is an irrevocable crime for it disregards the "consent" and "well being" of an individual. Women stand as the most vulnerable target of hatred between communities because their "purity" is associated with "honor" of the group at large. 

The war in Democratic Republic of Congo or the partition of India and Pakistan, the sex slavery by Japan in WWII or by ISIS today - stand as evidence for rape being used as a weapon because the perpetrator is well aware of the stigma associated with it. Even in cases of rapes linked to vengeance or a reminder of being subordinate, the choice of the crime is with the consciousness of teaching a "life-long lesson". And here we are- instead of de-linking honor and repute from the chastity of a woman's body, we are strengthening that illogical bond that doesn't allow the restitution of a rape victim. 

 It is a shame on us that a rape victim should be made to feel that her reputation has been soiled or her life is beyond redemption when it is she who has been violated and deserves life to go on as the same, if not better, for a quicker restitution. The Park Street Rape victim had a name. Till the moment in March this year when she breathed her last, her fight to be known as "Suzette Jordan" was not over. The upholders of the law of the land , beware. The richest jewel of life isn't reputation but life itself which ceases to get extinguished on the very same day. The dignity of a person lies within and isn't fragile to be painted like clay.


  1. As always elaborate, researched and well analysed. Congratulations on being published.

    1. Thank you Salvwi ! You are one of those who have inspired me to take writing seriously !


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