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Getting Rapist Married To Survivor For ‘Legitimacy’ Of Child Is A Patriarchal Abomination

The recent case of a rape survivor wanting to marry the rapist to "give legitimacy to her child" speaks of how our patriarchal society inspires fear in a single mother.

The recent case of a rape survivor wanting to marry the rapist to “give legitimacy to her child” speaks of how our patriarchal society inspires fear in a single mother.

“Bachhe pe baap ka saaya hona chahiye” (a child should have a father’s protection)
“Bachhe ko baap ka naam toh milna chahiye” (a child should have a father’s name).

These may sound like clichéd Bollywood movie dialogues to you; but this is exactly what is happening in this bizarre case, that shows our societal mindset.

I do agree that both parents hold their place of importance in a child’s life, but here are a few questions.

  1. What kind of ‘saaya’ (protection) is a rapist going to give a child born of woman he had raped?
  2. What kind of role model will such a father be?
  3. Imagine actually marrying your rapist and attempting to spend a lifetime with him. In a society patriarchal enough to push a woman to do this, surely she will always be abused by this ‘husband’ throughout her life? What kind of life would this be?!
  4. Is rape a valid reason to accord a lesser social status to, or deem a child born to a single mother or unwed mother as ‘illegitimate’? In fact, a recent Karnataka HC ruling has actually made this comment – that “no children are illegitimate!”

In the present case before the Supreme Court, though the survivor’s bail application for the rapist was refused, the fact that she approached the court with an intent to marry the rapist for her child’s sake, speaks of the pressure that a woman undergoes in an insensitive and patriarchal society.

Survivor fought to get rapist convicted, but then…

The convicted rapist was the manager of a school backed by the St Sebastian’s Church at Kottiyoor in Wayanad District, Kerala. The survivor was a minor and a student of Class XI in the school when he raped her. She became pregnant, and gave birth to a girl child in 2017.

The survivor filed a complaint of rape against the accused with the help of a child helpline agency. The accused was convicted of rape in February 2019, and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a special Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) court.

So far so good, and kudos to the young woman for sticking this out.

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The accused then approached the Kerala High Court seeking suspension of his sentence for marrying the survivor, with her agreement. The Court refused to grant the request, and refused to grant judicial approval to him for marrying the survivor whom he had raped.

This decision of the survivor could have been the result of pressure from the church, which had been present all along in the case.

The Supreme Court has stated that it would not interfere in the matter, and refused the bail plea for the accused., terming the High Court order reasonable.

Is getting a rapist to marry the survivor even a solution?

Society considers the rapist marrying the survivor an ‘act of repentance’ by the rapist, sometimes even shamelessly glorifying his ‘large-heartedness’. This act has even received support from our courts not too long ago.

You may say that the scenario here is different, as it’s the survivor herself who wants to marry. Well, it only appears as though this is her decision, but is it a decision taken of her free will? She has herself stated that she wants to marry the accused to give legitimacy to her child, and to be able to mention the father’s name in the school application form of the child. It is clear that it is societal (church?) pressure, which has led to her making this decision.

Why must society insist that a father’s name must be associated with a child, especially when the child is the result of rape? Why should a woman be subject to lifelong agony, by being married to a man who violated her consent?

There have also been news reports that all possible pressure was laid on the survivor to prevent the conviction of the accused. This is another reason why it is a strong possibility that this is being done under pressure.

Let’s stop stigmatising a rape survivor

The primary reason why a rape survivor would be married to the rapist is the stigma that society associates with the survivor, and more so if she were to get pregnant. The accused in such cases uses marriage as a means to escape punishment.

Shouldn’t there be some thought for a survivor who has already suffered enough ordeal? Can’t we pause a minute to think about her, her mental well being, and her consent? Instead of making a survivor feel compelled, and also ‘grateful’ about the rapist marrying her, let’s stand by her and applaud her rising to get out of this situation.

Unless society stops equating ‘lost family honour’ with a rape survivor, stigmatizing her, and penalizing her child, we cannot see better days. Any number of laws can be framed, but unless societal perceptions change, no survivor of rape would truly get justice.

Years ago, I had watched a Bollywood flick Benaam Badshah, a cringe-worthy story of how a survivor of rape convinces the rapist to marry her because her ‘life had been ruined’, and she sees it as the only means of ‘reclaiming her honour’. If reading this synopsis angered you, watching the movie would make your blood boil. But how much ever we might pan such inane movies, even 30 years after its release, our patriarchal and misogynistic mindset seems to have remained the same!

Image source: YouTube/ India Ahead News

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About the Author

Parvadavardini Sethuraman

A dreamer by passion and an Advocate by profession. Mother to an ever energetic and curious little princess. I long to see the day when Gender equality is a reality in the world. read more...

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