Violence against a female is one of the most persistent and devastating human rights violations in our society and remains unreported due to the silence, stigma and shame. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Recently a 19 years old Dalit woman from U.P was allegedly raped by 4 men in Hathras District on 14 September. The victim was initially admitted to a district hospital and after that, she was referred to Aligarh hospital for speedy and better treatment. She was not only gang-raped but strangulated by the perpetrators to some extent. Nearly after 10 days of this brutal incident, she made her statement when she momentarily regained consciousness. she died more or less two weeks after such a brutal incident at a Delhi Hospital on September 29, 2020.
This black event compelled us again to rethink why such events are taking place again and again. A report was published in The Hindu based on NCRB data said, An average of 80 murders, 289 kidnappings and 91 rapes were reported every single day across the country in 2018, according to latest data by the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB).
Word “Rape”, is defined under section 375 of Indian Penal Code(IPC), as an act of sex with a woman without her consent and will. Under section 375 of IPC different grounds are explained which constitute rape. And section 376 of IPC talks about punishment for rape. Criminal law related to rape and sexual assaults remained unchanged until the ill-famed incident of the Matura custodial rape case.
Indian Courts’ Ruling and Observation-
Recently a single judge (J. Krishna S. Dixit) Bench of Karnataka High Court passed an anticipatory bail order on the charge of rape punishment under section 376 of IPC on June 22nd, 2020 after observing that victim fell asleep after the act and it was “unbecoming of an Indian Woman” to sleep after being “ravished”. And passed such order. November 28, 2019, was the day when a veterinarian in Hyderabad was raped and set on fire. Victims of sexual assaults today are subject to “re-victimization”. Sad to say that ruling of our judiciary is not rape victim-oriented except in some cases.
Justice S.M Ali in Pratap Misra And Ors. v. State of Orrisa, said an absence of injuries on the victim (prosecutrix) is a factor negating the rape. We all are familiar with Tuka Ram And Anr v. State of Maharashtra (Mathura case), Justice A Koshal, reversed the judgment of High Court and acquitted the accused policemen. The victim was under the 20-year-old tribal girl when policemen raped her. Mathura rape case is well known for the criticism it received for its legal fallacies, interpretation of law used by our Hon’ble Supreme Court. Earlier our judiciary was tilted towards failure to “raise an alarm” by rape-victim before, during or after the incident. And the Mathura case is an example of this phrase. Recent order passed by Karnataka High Court again repeated the same phrase in a rape case.
The dignity of women is her precious belongings and we follow the same concept from the era of Lord Rama. Women have the right to live with dignity is constitutional as well as one of the natural rights. Aruna R. Shanbaug case, one of the oldest rape cases in our criminal law history which shaken the whole community conscience. She was an Indian staff nurse in a hospital while changing her clothes in the hospital she was attacked by a word boy. Prima facie, he tried to commit rape on her but when he found out she was menstruating he sodomized her. meanwhile, due to strangulation, her body was paralyzed and her brain was damaged. The most infamous rape case, widely known as Nirbhaya case (Delhi gang-rape) of 2012. The girl was a para-medical student (intern) when she was brutally assaulted and raped in moving bus in South Delhi. All the six men in Nirbhaya rape case including the juvenile were convicted by the court. Ram Singh the bus driver committed suicide in Tihar jail during the trial on March 11, 2013. Minor was tried by a juvenile court and awarded imprisonment for 3 years’ reform facility.
Finally, Supreme Court in its decision (Pawan Kumar Singh v. State of NCT Delhi) on March 20, 2020, upheld the capital punishment awarded to four accused persons, saying that it is “Rarest of rare” case which shaken whole nation’s faith in the humanity.
On the other hand, in affirmative mood, Bhanwari Devi Gang rape case in 1992 a low caste woman was allegedly gang-raped by High caste neighbours in Rajasthan. Finally, in 1997, the Hon’ble Supreme Court formulated Vishaka Guidelines. And it became founding stone for “The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
in case of Suryanelli rape case, a 16 years old schoolgirl was kidnapped and gang-raped. The girl was taken by them to several places and, accordingly to the prosecution, was raped 67 times by 37 different people during 40 days from January 16, 1996, to February 26, 1996. Supreme court rejected the Bail application of 27 persons with a noted caveat.
Scarlett Keeling case, Scarlett Keeling rape and murder was a very heart-breaking case which directly created a setback for India at the international level. She was raped and then drawn in the sea and murdered. Keeling was found half-naked and dead on February 18, 2008, in Goa’s Anjuna beach. The Bombay High Court sentenced Samson D’Souza, a beach shack worker, to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment. In case of Santosh Kumar Singh v. State, the C.B.I, (popularly known as Priyadarshini Mattoo case), a 25 years old law student who was found raped and murdered at her home in New Delhi on January 23, 1996. The accused was also a law graduate from the same college of the University of Delhi. Additional Judge G.P Thareja in this case said, “though I know he is a man who committed the crime I acquit him giving the benefit of the doubt. Delhi High Court convicted him for both rape and murder, finally, an appeal was preferred by accused before Hon’ble Supreme Court. On October 06, 2010, Apex Court held, “ends of justice would be met if the sentence awarded to him is commuted from death to life imprisonment under section 302 of the (IPC), the other part of the sentence being retained as it is. With this modification in the sentence, the appeal dismissed.
In Nirbhaya case the woman was brutally raped because she was out late at night and enjoying her freedom in a democratic country where freedom is an integral part of Fundamental rights. And in a recent case which shaken the collective conscience of society once again, alleged accused gave her several spinal cord injuries. Unfortunately, she succumbed to injuries at Delhi’s Hospital on the morning of September 29, 2020.
Mathura case and Nirbhaya case highlighted the need for legislation which is sensitive to victims. And respective governments came forward with such amendments. only amendments cannot do change such inhuman activities. We have to change this Rape Culture by awareness if we want to see a healthy society where women can roam without any fear wear what they want. Educate yourself on what it means to get and give consent. Education is the most powerful weapon which helps us to eradicate this ill rooted mentality. Our cinema and TV programs should be presented in a manner which gives a kind of positive message to our society. Sex education and awareness shall be enforced in the syllabus of schools, colleges and universities as a compulsory paper.
Women have the right to live with dignity and the right to proper health. And undoubtedly the term right to health includes “sexual and reproductive” health. All such rights are given under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and interpreted by the Apex court from time to time. In a very true sense, women are the very existence of this nature. Now, this is the correct time to rethink the masculinity by taking a reproving look at what it means to you. Stop victim (rape survivors) blaming because sometimes your words turn into a shell which consists no drop of sympathy along with empathy. We should avoid Rape affirming thinking and conversations. Because they are our true existence so it is our duty to invest in them and invest, by way of donation to organizations which are dedicated to such victims.