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Rape comment and gender sensitization: what do experts think?

Mahima

The Supreme Court’s observation shook the nation when it asked a 23-year-old rape accused if he was willing to marry the victim.

The Supreme Court bench was hearing a special leave petition where the petitioner is now a government servant in Maharashtra and stands accused of raping a minor girl when she was 16 years during 2014-15. He had moved the apex court against the order cancelling his anticipatory bail by the Aurangabad Bench of Bombay High Court.

The Bench was headed by Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, and accompanied by Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

The defence lawyer submitted that his client is a government employee who will be suspended if arrested to which the CJI replied, “You should have thought before seducing and raping the young girl.”

The CJI further added,

“You know you’re a government servant. We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise, you will say we are forcing you to marry,”

to which the lawyer replied that even though he had initially asked the victim to marry him which she refused, marriage in the present scenario is not possible as the accused is already married.

The bench dismissed the petition after granting him protection from arrest for four weeks and allowing him to seek regular bail later.

The legal experts have pointed out that the option of marriage to escape punishment for rape might prevent the victims from coming out and reporting the incidents. They, therefore, stressed the need for training judges on gender sensitization.

Previously, Madhya Pradesh High Court granted bail to the accused in a molestation case on the condition that he should get a rakhi tied on his wrist by the complainant. Advocate Aparna Bhatt moved the Supreme Court to set aside this judgment of Madras High Court response to the recent apex court’s observation,

 “The SC observation is a shocking one as marriage is not a solution for a rape survivor at all. These statements demoralize the victim.”

Supreme Court lawyer Rekha Aggarwal also reacted to Supreme Court’s observation,

 “It is high time our society and judiciary stopped treating a woman as a commodity. Rape is rape and there is no question of condoning the same on the pretext of marriage. When we are treating every victim of rape as a survivor, then it is the need of the hour that despite giving choice to the accused to get married to the girl, consent should first be taken from her whether or not she would be able to cope up with the life-long stigma which the accused had given her.”

Attorney General KK Venugopal had also said that awareness of gender sensitization would be helpful to the judges and that national and state judicial academies must have such programs back in November 2020.

Read also: Will You Marry Her?” Supreme Court asked Govt servant in rape case