No More Of Rape Today And Marry Tomorrow.
Have you heard of the term blood money? Take a guess and no, it’s not that Leo Di Caprio movie about African diamonds. The word blood money I am talking about refers to the money paid in a criminal case by the accused person’s family to the victims to persuade them to withdraw the case in exchange for the money. And no it’s not illegal according to the law. In fact it has been a long followed tradition right from antiquity and is still actively practiced by many countries worldwide.
One of the best kept secrets of Indian diplomacy is that whenever a PIO- a person of Indian origin is in serious trouble- think head-chopping trouble- in one of the gulf emirates – the Indian government acting through its embassy helps out the accused by paying out Blood money to the relatives of the affected person and asks them not to oppose the pardon requested from the ruler. This works both ways as it not only helps the Indian citizen to gain clemency under the Sharia laws but also provides an excuse for the Emir to officially pardon the guilty from the harsher punishments prescribed under Islamic law and thereby prevent ugly international incidents and misunderstandings between nations.
Now if you think that this goes on only in absolute monarchies like the Emirates, you would be surprised to learn that the same goes on even in our country too under the auspices of the Indian Penal Codes. When the victim and the accused patch up between themselves and close the case the process is called compounding under our law. But as usual the law adds quite a few caveats to the compounding between persons privately and rarely winks and let’s go. The law, if you didn’t realize it before, is quite the jealous mistress, it never gives up easily what is its due and if compounding (between the affected and the accused) looks like cheating the law of the satisfaction of punishment then the law refuses to accept the private agreement and grant its blessing to it.
But it’s not always clear cut- as always there are two sides to everything and its worth taking a deeper look. The commonest of these patch ups between the two affected parties to bypass the law is seen in Defamation cases, in Adultery cases and hold your breath, in Rape cases. Are you surprised? Read on then.
Let’s take the most common example – of defamation cases where one person files a complaint in court that someone else has spread ill-truths and rumors about him thereby hurting him badly mentally, professionally or financially. When the person who felt that his good name has been spoiled accepts some money (or even a public apology) in compensation for the loss of his good name and withdraws his complaint then the case automatically collapses. I am sure everyone has seen this in newspaper articles where the next day’s paper prints a retraction and apology of the previous day’s news
The next most commonest of these private agreements is seen in adultery cases, where the husband files a divorce case against the wife and a criminal case for adultery against the “other” man involved- for robbing him off his honour by having sex with his legally wedded wife. This is because under indian law only the other man can be sent to prison for the crime of seducing an innocent(?) woman while the wife can escape any consequences as a woman is not held responsible for her actions. This forces the husband to file a criminal case against his wife’s lover in the hope that the woman will agree to do anything to get her lover out of prison and once the wife confesses to her adulterous behavior and agrees to sign the divorce the criminal case against her illegal lover is withdrawn by the husband and the newly divorced woman and her lover go off to start a new life together.
But in all these cases there is not much public attention and they often escape media scrutiny. But rape is a different kettle of fish and when such a compromise -between the rapist and the rape victim- happens in rape cases there is often a huge public outcry and it is turned into a national issue. The news media has been regularly reporting on recent Supreme Court judgments where the judges refused to drop the rape case even after the women herself wanted the courts to excuse the man -after the man promised to marry her. But our judges would have none of it- they stuck to their stand saying that the law has been broken and regardless of what the victim feels the punishment for breaking the law cannot be avoided. There is no question of the victim’s opinions influencing the law of the law which states quite clearly that a rape is an offense against society and any violation of such law will lead to chaos in society as people might take up matters in their own hands.
Which is the most sensible approach by our courts- for otherwise our courts will turn into a legal version of our filmy Panchayats where the headman of the village advises the woman to regain her lost honor by marrying the man who robbed her of her chastity. This is based on the premise that a woman who has had sex once with a man is now soiled goods or in the words of one of our esteemed members of parliament “zinda laash or living corpse” and no one else will marry her and she is now at the mercy of her rapist. Sex (even unwilling) is not accepted as just a bodily act but made the very cornerstone of Indian culture and a raped woman is thought to have lost her respect in the eyes of society.
It is this kind of thinking which makes many men believe that they can just a rape a girl, any girl that they desire and society will do the rest for them- marry of the girl to her rapist because he has by default become her husband after the rape for which man in his right senses would marry any girl who has had intercourse with another man? This Stone Age attitude of equating sex with marriage has been fostered by our stupid films where even ruffians who rape the heroine are turned into hero’s because the heroine is left with no other choice except to marry him and reform him.
There was an execrable Tamil film called “Pudhiya Padhai?” in the early 90’s where the hero (anti-hero?) Parthiban rapes the heroine Sita on the eve of her wedding and the next day she stops the wedding saying she is soiled forever and then she goes off to the slum to live with her rapist saying that she considers him her husband as he was the first one to touch her body. The film was of course a big hit because our audiences love such “progressive” films and encourage them. And this is exactly the kind of stupidity which will no longer wash for once a rape case is filed the law will take its own course despite the victims “forgiveness” of her assaulter. The recent Supreme Court Judgments have removed all these loopholes of escape and the case will henceforth be only between the society and the rapist and not between the raped person and her rapist
For the sake of keeping peace in society certain crimes like rape or murder have to be taken to their bitter end. And the criminals have to be severely punished without regard to individual feelings or decisions. Many times the victims or their families may be pressured by money power or societal disapproval to withdraw cases. Even during the court case the witnesses may lie or even the victim may deny everything. And the law which goes by the maxim of “no innocent must be punished even if guilty is allowed to escape” has to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused and release him. In cases where the guilt is proven very clearly in public mind (by the media) but the evidence is not there and the guilty escape easily there is a huge public back-lash – like in the delhi rape case. This will make our bleeding heart politicians to pass more and more ridiculously stricter laws which will affect even innocent persons who are falsely accused and caught in rape cases.
For example, in certain cases the rape laws were being exploited by women who were disappointed in love to take revenge on their lovers as the jilted women used to file false rape cases to force men to marry them even if they both had consensual sex or even casual one night stands. Simply the threat of being sent to jail for seven years on a false rape charge made men feel that marriage was the lesser evil and they used to tie the knot to get the lady to withdraw the rape case. But all that has changed with the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on rape cases. Even if the lady states later that she longer wishes for the guy to be punished the courts cannot be fooled as they will either send the guy to prison for the rape or they will punish the woman for filing a false complaint. And so the threat of filing false cases can no longer work, which is a welcome step.
Now that the recent changes have been made to the rape laws, we can rest assured that the law will make sure that rapists get their just desserts. Or so we hope. For this is India. Here we take the good with the bad and get on with our lives.
P.S. All opinions expressed in this blogpost are personal opinions of a layman and are neither legal opinions nor legal advice. For more authentic information please talk to a qualified legal professional.
P.P.S. I am especially grateful to my friend Oldtimer Ottee or as he is popularly known in the blogosphere – The Visitor/The Veil – for sharing the Supreme Court article with me and prompting me to write this post. Thanks to you Ottee….