The Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishnan, suggested on Sunday that, the state should  respect the decision of a rape victim if she decides to marry the rapist. 

 “Due regard must be given to their personal autonomy since in some cases victim may choose to marry the perpetrator or give birth to a child conceived through forced intercourse.”

Women’s rights activists do not agree.

“His statement is extremely unfortunate,”  said Brinda Karat, general secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association.

 “We expect the CJI to be concerned about extremely low conviction rate in rape cases, delay in deciding the case and the fact that victims are more often than not also blamed for the occurrence of the crime. Instead, the CJI chooses to take this line. Is he suggesting that this could be a viable alternative for the victim?”

National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Girija Vyas also objected to the suggestion by the Chief Justice.  “If what he has suggested were to happen, it would be an easy way out for the rapists, who would first commit rape and then, if caught, make an offer to marry the victim.”

Women’s rights activists pointed out that the CJI’s view flew in the face of a ruling by the Supreme Court, which said that neither a proposal of marriage nor any other settlement between the rapist and his victim could condone the crime.

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In June 2006, there was a shocking case in Chennai where a 25 year old man was charged with raping a hearing and speech impaired young woman. He struck a compromise with the woman’s family and married the victim.

 As the judge was preparing to pronounce the verdict, his counsel ‘ produced the marriage certificate to prove that the accused and victim were man and wife‘ and pleaded for dropping rape charges against the accused.

 The judge accepted this and acquitted him.

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Just last month, on 22nd of February, the Supreme Court directed that the FIR against rape accused,  Arun Goyal be quashed  as he had reached a ‘settlement’ with the victim by paying her Rs 4 lakh.

Legal experts believe that this order dilutes the gravity of rape as a crime and goes against the apex court’s own past approach of seeking to deal with rapists with an iron hand.

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Whether by marrying the victim, or by reaching a settlement and ‘compensating’ her,  it appears that it is possible for a rapist to escape punishment. And this apparently has the sanction of the Supreme Court.

 Should the victim be allowed to take compensation and drop rape charges against the perpetrator?  Who decides how much the amount should be? 

 Should she be allowed to marry the rapist if she so wishes? Can we be certain that her consent to such marriage has been obtained without any undue coercion? And can we be sure that the rapist will not divorce the victim once all charges against him are dropped?

Since a rape victim is often from a  comparatively weaker section of society ( for example when a maid is raped by her employer) will there not be the risk that she will be forced to agree to any settlement the rapist suggests?

What do you think?