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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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Rajshri Deshpande, who played the fiery protagonist in Trial by Fire along with Abhay Deol speaks of her journey and her social work.
Rajshri Deshpande as the protagonist in ‘Trial by Fire’, the recent Netflix show has received raving reviews along with the show itself for its sensitive portrayal of the Uphaar Cinema Hall fire tragedy, 1997 and its aftermath.
The limited series is based on the book by the same name written by Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy, who lost both their children in the tragedy. We got an opportunity to interview Rajshri Deshpande who played Neelam Krishnamoorthy, the woman who has been relentlessly crusading in the court for holding the owners responsible for the sheer negligence.
Rajshri Deshpande is more than an actor. She is also a social warrior, the rare celebrity from the film industry who has also gone back to her roots to give to poverty struck farming villages in her native Marathwada, with her NGO Nabhangan Foundation. Of course a chance to speak with her one on one was a must!
“What is a woman’s job, Ramesh? Taking care of parents-in-law, husband, children, home and things at work—all at the same time? She isn’t God or a superhuman."
The arrays of workstations were occupied by people peering into their computer screens. The clicks of keyboard keys were punctuated by the occasional footsteps moving around to brainstorm or collaborate with colleagues in their cubicles. Most employees went about their tasks without looking at the person seated on either side of their workstation. Meenakshi was one of them.
The thirty-one-year-old marketing manager in a leading eCommerce company in India sat straight in her seat, her eyes on the screen, her fingers punching furiously into the keys. She was in a flow and wanted to finish the report while the thoughts and words were coming effortlessly into her mind.
Natu-Natu. The mellifluous ringtone interrupted her thoughts. She frowned at her mobile phone with half a mind to keep it ringing until she noticed the caller’s name on the screen, making her pick up the phone immediately.
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