‘In a rape, the rapists are on trial, not the raped’

ASHWINI A. writes from Bangalore: Early this morning, a Delhi-datelined news item in Deccan Herald made me pull my hair out in wonderment: the Supreme Court of India had ruled that nobody had the licence to rape a woman who appeared to be promiscuous in her sexual behaviour.

Yes, nobody has the licence to rape a woman who appears to be promiscuous in her sexual behaviour.

It might seem common sensical, but the beauty of common sense is that it is so uncommon, even in the rarified echelons of our higher judiciary.

When a 17-year-old girl was raped in Uttar Pradesh, the trial court had justly convicted her rapists. But the perpetrators went in appeal. Stunningly, the two men were let off by the Allahabad High Court on the grounds that the “girl was promiscuous in her sexual behaviour and had already lost her virginity”!

Basically the Allahabad HC ruling implied that a woman who was previously accustomed to sexual intercourse at the time of a rape cannot be believed when she screams rape.

In other words, only a virgin has a case against rape.

Seriously!

The insensivity and the sheer injustice in the HC ruling made me wonder if the case pertained to India or to one of our Islamic neighbours where such barbaric judgments are routinely pronounced.

Thankfully, the UP Government challenged the verdict and Supreme Court trashed the HC ruling and ordered it to rehear the case. But the mere fact that the victim could have undergone such a criminal miscarriage of justice in a high court, and on such grounds, beggars disbelief.

Does it require the Supreme Court of India to remind the High Court in India’s largest State of the basic point in the case: that it is the rapists who were on trial, not the raped?

While we must be relieved by the rightful intervention of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Mukundakam Sharma of the Supreme Court, the HC ruling raises a number of troubling questions that the judicial system must be made to answer:

# How did the High Court arrive at such a judgement in the first place?

# What if the UP government had not challenged the HC ruling in the SC?

# How can the HC judge/s in the case be made accountable for the astounding judgment?# How much faith can the people place in the judges given such an open-and-shut case?

# And is such “jungle law” a nation-wide phenomenon of which we hear little?

I am sure I speak for the women of the country, virgin and otherwise, when I say that basic human rights were raped by the Allahabad HC and those responsible for it, virgin or otherwise, must be brought to book.