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Due process of law was denied to a gang rape survivor in Bihar when she insisted her 2 social workers be with her in court, and all 3 were arrested.
In a world rampant with victim-blaming and unfair standards of passiveness placed on women, an incident in Bihar where a survivor was reportedly arrested for fighting for her rights is not as surprising as it should be. It stands as testimony for the outdated measures of handling rape cases in India.
In Bihar’s Araria district, a 22 year-old woman and two social workers assisting her were arrested on charge of disrupting court proceedings on July 10. The woman had allegedly demanded the presence of the social workers in court before she signed her statement, and appeared agitated. All three people are still being held in judicial custody. In contrast, four of the five men involved in the case are yet to be arrested.
The recording of both the oral and written statement of the survivor is a vital part of filing a rape case. The magistrate is responsible to record the statement as fast as possible, specifically without causing more distress to the survivor by making her recount her experiences several times, both of which occurred in this case.
Moreover, social workers are an integral part of this process and are important intermediaries in communicating with the police and other institutions as primary respondents in a sexual assault case.
The way that this case was handled by our legal system was dismal, and needless to say, women deserve better.
Owing to a problematic history of many such instances as described above when it comes to due process of law in rape cases, there is no surprise in the fact that the woman in question did not have trust in the system.
The gang rape survivor reportedly had no access to mental health professionals, family support, or her basic right to privacy (her identity was revealed to media without consent), not to mention the apathy from the court officials who made her wait four hours in the presence of one of the accused before her statement could be recorded.
This sends an alarming message to those of us watching all of this unfold: rape is never about the experience or rights of the survivor. Justice is dependent on the conduct of the survivor herself, who is expected to act demure and helpless.
The practice of arresting survivors who ask for rights they are entitled to is a new low our country has hit in the redressal of sexual assault cases.
The legality of the case is no doubt the most significant part of redressal, but so is her mental health. In a rape case, all processes in our country from making a police complaint and the medical examination, to the trial and sentencing of perpetrators are all extremely emotionally exhausting for a survivor who is further forced to face the abuse of being shamed or victimised by those around her. We have heard stories of countless women who do not report sexual offences precisely because they do not want to go through something as harrowing as even just filing a case.
This kind of treatment of survivors is directly linked to the yearly rise in the number of rape cases in India. In a system that is skewed in favour of perpetrators and impossibly harsh to survivors, the result would obviously be a rise in the crime.
Our legal systems are a reflection of our values as a society which upholds patriarchal ideals. It puts aggrieved women on pedestals for “good behaviour” and holds women to standards of victimhood, failing which they cannot exist as people who are seeking justice for crimes committed against them.
Image source: a still from the film Love Sonia
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