Escaping Punishment For Rape

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?

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38 thoughts on “Escaping Punishment For Rape”

  1. In my opinion ,it is a good suggestion.With the kind of conviction rate on rape cases, like other cases, being so low this will at least be a relief to the victim.
    There was a case where a murderer was asked to stay with the victims family and look after them—they say it worked.
    Why not give CJI’s suggestion a try?
    As for NCW and AIDWA is concerned–these are political set ups and are expected to make statements on part lines only.

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    1. Chowlaji, it is not clear from the CJ’s remark as to whether he means that a rapist should get no sentence of imprisonment if he marries the victim.

      However, in earlier cases, as in the 2006 case I have mentioned in this post, the accused was allowed to go free after he proved that he had married his victim. Why should he not suffer for his crime?

      A rape victim is likely to come under tremendous pressure to marry the person who has raped her even if she does not want to, particularly if he is wealthy or influencial.

      So I’m afraid that I do not agree with the CJ’s suggestion.

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    2. Mr. Chowla, how can this be a good suggestion? Not only does the rapist get away with his crime but the rape victim gets stuck with him…Can you imagine the mental agony of the victim if she has to marry the rapist?

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  2. This advice from the CJ, comes soon after the Women and Child Development ministry is about to implement a scheme of financial succour to rape victims ( Rs 20,000 within a fortnight of lodging the complaint (FIR registration proof not mandatory), 50,000 for medical and other rehabilitation expenses thereafter , and 1.30 lakhs at the end of the legal trial). The scheme, awaiting the cabinet nod is set to be implemented from March 31, 2010.

    We have a rape conviction rate of 20%, one of the lowest in the world. I consider it extremely improper on the part of the CJ to make such comments, which imply an effort, to avoid pointing fingers at, and punishing a rapist, by making him marry his victim. If he then kills her, or abandons her, or treats her like bonded labour, there will be no sympathy from courts. And they will say ,”the law will take its own course”……

    Many women , due to social and economic compulsions stay away from legal tangles with the rapist. Their social , economic level may be poor, their mind is not.

    If the CJ had offered ideas on how the country could define laws that would subsidize, financially, socially and in economic terms, the life of a child born out of such a situation, that would have been applauded.

    At best, he could have just remained quiet.

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    1. Suranga, thanks for the link to the news report about financial assistance to rape victims. I do hope this scheme is implemented and that the benefit reaches the victims.

      I agree, the CJ’s suggestion implies an attempt to sort of shield the rapist from public censure, and seems insensitive to the victim’s feelings.

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  3. ‘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?’ – Absolutely! Already women find it difficult to come forward and report a rape. With a clause like this, it is more than likely that rapists will use this to escape.

    If the victim does really want to marry the rapist, I would say that they can get married after the criminal has served his sentence – marriage CANNOT be INSTEAD of a conviction – that would be ridiculous! No way should the sentence be waived off.

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    1. Smitha, I agree completely with your statement that if the victim really does want to marry the rapist, she can do so after he has served his sentence.

      And if the rapist still wants to marry her at that time, then it would not mean that he is marrying her to escape imprisonment, and there would not be any risk to her.

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  4. 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? – Getting consent from the girl is the first question mark and who will monitor how she will be treated by her rapist ‘husband’ and his relatives? What respect will the child get from the relatives? So many question marks.

    The last paragraph – Definitely she will not be treated as a family member after the ‘so called’ marriage.

    After taking the settlement money (if the man is filthy rich, 4-5 lakh might be pittance for him), he might continue his hobby and keep on escaping by throwing money. There is no work for the CJ at all.

    Very rarely the rape victim comes out to report about the abuse and after reporting and facing all the abusive inquiries, if the rapist is allowed to pay money and escape or if she is compelled to marry him, again, the Judge becomes a dummy. He can just declare that they don’t handle rape victims. Let them face their destiny (our word for easy way out).

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  5. Sandhya, that is an important point- who will monitor how the victim is treated by the rapist and his family after they are married?

    And really, what sort of marriage would that be- to be married to the person who has done such a horrible injustice to her?

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  6. In my opinion the view of the CJI gives a leeway for the accused to get away !

    If at all the case persists and goes to some logical level !

    Unfortunate !

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    1. Kavi- that’s a good point- perhaps the case will not reach a logical conclusion!

      In that case, I think perhaps the victim should accept a settlement- at least she would get something! 😦

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  7. I have been thinking about this. And needed to come back here. Suppose this happened to a woman you knew. What would be your chief concern ? That the woman’s trauma is addressed, that she be physically treated and mentally comforted and assured that the perpetrator of the crime will be punished. Pregnancy is just one complication. Abuse of her psyche is the more serious thing. She is scarred for life, and will find it difficult to trust any man again (that is, if any from our double-standard society offers her a future with him, in the first place).

    What kind of comments is the CJ offering ? Does he even assume that the woman has a mind ? Or is it all about pushing controversy under the carpet, convincing the woman to marry the crook, and everyone applauding the man, who might possibly be the only one to emerge smelling of roses, while the thorns continue to prick and bleed the woman…?

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    1. A very depressing scenario! But I suppose that this is what would happen. The rapist would be praised for being so ‘magnanimous’ as to marry the ‘poor woman’…

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  8. I wonder what prompted a comment like that. I doubt if any woman would really want to marry the man! There would be no trust and security in the marriage. But if we are talking of the weaker sections – there may be other reasons that can prompt the woman and her family. And the person should not go scott free

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    1. I totally agree with this! What kind of husband could a person be who could perpetrate such an act on his wife?! The CJ does not seem to have any concept of the sanctity of marriage or the relationship a husband should have with his wife based on trust, love, compassion and RESPECT! How could there be any of these feelings in a person capable of rape?!

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  9. If it was a rape, which victim would want to marry the man who violated her? beats me..
    and even if she marries him due to the pressure from her parents, society and now the law, what kind of life would she have? will the rapist change his mentality? will he suddenly become a good husband? and isn’t the society doing even a bigger crime by forcing a girl to face even more torture…

    here the victim is further punished while the criminal enjoys his crime since our laws are such..

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    1. The only case that I can think of where the victim would want to marry the rapist is in a case of what is called ‘statutory’ rape. This is where the two have consensual sexual relations, but the girl is still a minor (say a few months under the age of 18). Even this would depend on the circumstances and the age of the girl, I suppose.

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  10. The CJI made this statement because he’s a man and rape is not on his radar…

    What happens after a rapist gets married to his victim, escapes punishment and then divorces her?

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  11. the rapist may marry one victim and then be free in society to rape as many more as he pleases…a marriage and a fine is not going to stop him…a rapist does whatever he does coz he feels powerful, in control of someone weak!

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    1. The Chief Justice was speaking at at the National consultation on access to justice, relief and rehabilitation of rape victims, organized by the women and child development ministry.

      The view of women’s representatives present was that he should have been more concerned that the victims should get swift justice.

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  12. More than a victim’s decision.. it has to be seen as a victim’s family’s decision and here the rapist easily escapes punishment…

    surely he must be punished but with the charges are withdrawn our law can do nothing on him 😦 😦

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    1. Kanagu, rape is a cognizable offense, so, as I understand it, the complaint can only be withdrawn if the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for doing so. It depends upon the court.

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  13. This is my first visit to your wordpress blog, and as usual, your insightful posts provoke thought and reaction.
    You are so right…marrying one’s rapist can only be done by a person who is scared of the social stigma/who will not be able to find a husband elsewhere/who comes from economically weaker sections/or who suffers from some emotional shortcoming or neurosis.
    This ruling may become a terrible weapon for men who want to force some girl into marriage and who will probably not accept him otherwise.

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  14. Sucharita, thanks!

    Yes, I’m afraid that this option of the rapist marrying the victim, suggested by the CJ, could be misused to force a girl into an unwanted marriage.

    The concerned court really has a great responsibility to take a decision, keeping the victim’s best interests in mind.

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  15. I witnessed a preliminary enquiry conducted by a Police Officer against a man who was in the lock up for raping a girl. The fact as emerged was that they were in love and were ‘found out’ by a watchman who reported it to police and her father. Since she was 15 or 16, it got considered as rape, and moreover because father was against the relationship.

    In another event I was present in the High Court of Bombay where a village girl [in school uniform, as she was very poor] attended the court; she was pregnant. The judge Mr. Kantharia asked a lady lawyer to consult the gorl who was raped by her school teacher, who was a young man, whether she was willing to marry him. The girl refused. The proceedings went further.

    This is just to highlight the point that actual case of rape may not be an open and shut case, in some cases marriage can be a distinct possibility whereas in others it is completely ruled out.

    A judge has to decide whether a compromise [not in money] can be beneficial to parties [as in the former case]; if he suggests marriage we need not feel alarmed, in my opinion.

    Thanks for raising a very important issue.

    Vivek

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    1. I agree, it cannot be an open and shut case. Much depends upon the discretion of the concerned judge.

      As I mentioned earlier, in some cases of statutory rape, mariage would seem to be a good option. But if the girl (as in your example) is as young as 15 or 16, and the father objects, I think the judge should examine the case very thoroughly before advising marriage.

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  16. “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.”

    I go with that.
    Rape is an offense and the rapist should be punished. Even an ordinary robber when caught by the police is punished even if all the goods he stole are recovered !!! Or do they tell him, ‘Ok now you have retrned all that you stole, you are free to go’??!! But in a crime more serious, marriage and ‘settlement’ are considered as options!! People really think that crime of rape can be righted by marrying the rape victim??!! I can’t believe this.
    Which victim would really want to marry her rapist?? People who suggest or even think on those lines are totally insensitive to the situation and trauma of rape. It is the age old belief that the woman is now ‘spoilt’ and only the person who raped her can salvage her by marrying her or economic considerations and pressure from all around would force any victim in her helplessness to accept her rapist as husband. In any case like Like Smitha says, marriage to the victim should never be instead of punishment. All this talk of respect the decision of the victim to marry the rapist is all eye wash for rapists to go scot free.
    Besides. do you think in our country girls really have the freedom to take a decision about her marriage?? So ‘others’ will be taking that ‘decision’ for the victim for all kind of reasons that is detrimental to her and trapping her even further!!

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    1. I agree, it is the age-old view that the girl who is a rape victim is ‘soiled’ and by marrying the rapist, her reputation will be salvaged. I would think that if the victim hears this view repeatedly, she would also begin to think this is true.

      What is really needed is swift justice and the rapist behind bars for a long period, so that the victim can put the whole episode behind her and go on with her life.

      Rape cases dragging on for years in court ensure that the victim cannot forget what has happened and move forward.

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  17. For me, the issue is simple. Let them get married if they want, but the rapist has to face jail time anyway. Rape is a criminal offense, not a civil one. It’s a crime not only against the victim, but against the state as well. This means that if a person forgives the attacker that doesn’t mean the state has to do the same.

    In fact, it’s the duty of the state to try and punish all criminals. Like I said, I’m least concerned if the victim and the rapist get married. If they’re both adults, that’s their choice and no one should interfere. But commuting a rapist’s sentence just because he/she marries the rape victim is ridiculous.

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