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Coincidentally, two much covered rape cases have both had verdicts handed down today – two different verdicts and two different courts. In the Pratibha Srikantamurthy case, where Pratibha, a young BPO employee was raped and murdered by a cab driver, the accused has been found guilty. In the TISS case, where six men were alleged to have raped an American national, all accused have been acquitted on grounds of insufficient evidence.
I don’t want to speculate on the judgements and whether they were right, particularly in the second case, but it is a good time to point out on what slender threads the prosecution of a rape case in this country hangs.
First, rape victims are subjected often, not just to humiliating questions, but to invasive procedures that violate their dignity. This is assuming that they gather the courage to go to the police, or have someone to support them in filing an FIR. It is well know that many rapes are never reported, what with families wanting to hush up the ‘loss of izzat.’
Trials take time, as they do for all cases in India. In the meanwhile, women may want to move on. Some, who have no other option, and fear that they will get no husbands, even agree to marry their rapists. Naturally, the case collapses.
Even if the case does go to trial, victims have to contend with the fact that it is their character, their actions, that will be placed under scrutiny. Indeed, in the TISS case (as in many others), early attempts were made to paint the victim as a depraved woman. That says something about our idea of consent. A woman who agrees to accompany a group of men, cannot possibly say no to sex, we think. Not just the victim’s character – in the Scarlett Keeling case, much energy was devoted to analysing the mother’s character.
Brave is the woman who can withstand this the scrutiny of her life and her actions being laid open for judgement. I’m reminded of the movie, Damini, made almost 20 years ago. Melodramatic as it was, it made its point – a rape victim in India is raped once by her assailants but condemned again and again by the society she lives in.
How much has changed in these 20 years, do you think?
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