Monday, November 21, 2005

The Supreme Court of India vilifies rape victims

MumbaiGirl points us towards this bit of news in the Indian Express about a father who was convicted of raping his daughter and got a life sentence in the process. This is what the Supreme Court of India, which adjudicated the matter, says, while justifying it's decision to award a life sentence to the accused :

Observing that even in ordinary criminal terminology a rape is a crime more heinous than murder as it destroys the very soul of the hapless woman, Justice Sema writing the judgement for the Bench, said, “this is more so when the perpetrator of the grave crime is the father of the victim”.
“Father is the fortress, refuge and trustee of his daughter. By betraying the trust and taking undue advantage of the trust reposed in him by the daughter. He ravished the chastity of his daughter, jeopardised her future prospect of getting married, enjoying marital and conjugal life, has been totally devastated,” the Bench observed.
Not only that, she carries an indelible social stigma on her head and deathless shame as long as she lives,” it added.
So, this is what the Supreme Court thinks about rape. These are the views with regard to rape of the highest judicial body in the country, entrusted with the task of protecting women from sexual discrimination, and which, under normal circumstances, should be a pioneer in the propagation of progressive values.

1.> Rape destroys the soul of a woman.
2.> Rape jeopardizes a woman's chances of marriage.
3.> Rape carries with it an "indelible" social stigma and "deathless" shame upon the victim.
4.> Rape turns a woman into damaged goods.

Is this fucking for real? Why would the Supreme Court insert these statements into it's ruling? Why would it try to reinforce the social stigma attached to rape, which, even though is in no way the woman's fault, is already a burden the woman has to carry in life just because society presses her into doing so?

In issuing this statement, the Supreme Court of India sounds more like the prejudiced prospective groom of the blighted woman, who is refusing her hand in marriage when informed of her status as a former rape victim, rather than the hallowed administrator of justice it actually is supposed to be.

We are not ostriches with our heads in the sand. We know that there are some realities in Indian society which cannot be erased by merely staying quiet, and not putting them into words. But what the Supreme Court has accomplished with this extremely bizarre statement is, that it has made discrimination against rape victims official. It has put the government stamp of approval on society looking down upon the victims of this heinous crime. It has officially condemned rape victims to live the rest of their lives as lesser human beings. This is an extremely reprehensible act on the part of the Supreme Court.

Rape, by itself, even without the social stigma and diminished marital prospects of the victim, is a horrible crime in itself. It is a crime of violence and coercion. The Supreme Court could have highlighted just those aspects of the crime, while ommitting any mention of all the quaint societal prejudices that come along with it.

In my opinion, the Supreme Court, in it's infinite wisdom, has just set back the women's rights movement in India by about 500 years. If Indians cannot look up to the Supreme Court as a beacon of hope towards a progressive society, who should they look up to?

Update : The situation becomes even more bizarre.

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