India… rape-public?

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[1980s- Protests In Delhi Against the Mathura rape case]

Flashback to March 26th 1972, India witnessed a custodial rape case. Custodial rape is perpetrated by a person employed by the state in a supervisory or custodial position, such as a police officer, public servant or jail or hospital employee. It also includes the rape of children in institutional care such as orphanages.

The Mathura case became the turning point in Indian Rape Law as it led to amendments in Rape Law via The criminal law act of 1983. In absolute brief, a young tribal girl named Mathura was raped by two policemen.

The case came for hearing in the sessions court on 1st June 1974. The judgement came forward that defendants are not guilty. It was stated that Mathura was habituated to sexual intercourse, her consent was voluntary.  And only the sexual intercourse can be proved and not rape. On appeal, the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court set aside the judgement of sessions court and sentenced the accused policemen to one and five years of imprisonment.

In September 1979 Supreme Court of India justice reversed the judgement given by Bombay high court on the case. Supreme Court held that Mathura had raised no alarm, there was no visible injury on her body indicating no struggle, therefore, indicating no rape. The judge noted, “Because she was used to sex, she might have incited the cops [they were drunk on duty] to have intercourse with her”. Implying that it’s the girl’s fault and not the fault of the police officers.

But nothing really came into the light until the law professors Upendra Baxi, Raghunath Kelkar and Lotika Sarkar of Delhi University and Vasudha Dhagamwar of Pune wrote an open letter to Supreme Court protesting the concept of consent. “Consent involves submission, but the converse is not necessarily true…From the facts of the case, all that is established is submission and not consent…Is the taboo against pre-marital sex so strong as to provide a license to Indian police to rape young girls.”

This gave rise to widespread protests across India especially in Delhi demanding a review of judgement which received vast amounts of media coverage. But the court said that there is no Locus Standi to rule in the favour of Mathura, which eventually led to Government of India making amendments in Rape Law via The Criminal Law Act of 1983.

Now coming to 17th December 2012 we see the rape case that shocked the entire world – Nirbhaya.   An outrage spread across India and the entire world for Nirbhaya. Hoping she will get justice. The government announced death by hanging as punishment for the rapists – it has been nearly 6 years, one was let off as a juvenile, one committed suicide and the other 3 are still in jail their hanging was delayed last year. On the 9th July, 2018 India’s Supreme Court on 9th July finally upholds death penalty for rapists in Nirbhaya case. When this actually happens I will believe it.

In the space of six years since Nirbhaya many more rape cases have been coming forward, a new rape case has been in headlines pretty much every day.

17th July 2018,  yesterday I came across three different rape incidents. “11-year-old girl was raped by 17 men while drugged and held captive for six months”/ “14-month old girl was raped by her great uncle”/”girl with disability gang-raped by 22 men for 7 Months”/    now just imagine these cases are reported…

WHY DO MEN RAPE? WHY IS INDIA A RAPE-PUBIC and not republic…. Why is there such delays with justice…

I have so many questions with little answers…

Savitri Goonesekere mentions that “Men mostly employ violence and rape to preserve their position of power in certain communities” Rape is seen as a method to exercise control over women to prove their masculinity. Often it is also used as a weapon of revenge against various disadvantaged or low caste women.

Writers such as Manto, Bedi, Amrita Pritam have looked at the effects of how rape was used in the partition. Manto’s Sharifan looks at rape as revenge was as political then as it is now.  Earlier this year we had the brutal incident of the 8-year-old Muslim Kashmiri girl Asifa. She was raped within a Hindu temple and currently, eight men are on trial for the rape and murder.

India was voted the most unsafe country for women to live. India has a culture of silence that is integrated by misogyny. It is deep-rooted often starting at home where,  girls treated differently to boys… boys are given more freedom and are open to doing whatever, whereas girls are told to be modest and behave a certain a way. These thoughts are also carried into the diaspora and believe it or not even first/ second/third generations carry these views.

In regards to rape, it is a serious social problem reflecting the reality of how women are treated. It needs to be dealt with at all levels from an individual, social, legal, economic and political aspect. Many think it is new that India is seeing so many rape cases but rape has always been at high rates The Mathura case being a prime example in the 1980s.

I can write many thousands of words but will it reach out to rapists and the government? Will my voice continually get rejected for wanting justice? There are many complex layers as to why rape takes place which needs to be analysed individually. As I mentioned in my previous blog post on five years since Nirbhaya the society needs to change… the change must come from home. A new wave of revolution must start to create a world safe for women. 

We need to become the revolution and change the present for the future.



Violence, Law and Women’s Rights in South Asia by Savitri Goonesekere

Men who rape (the psychology of the offender) by A. Nicholas Groth and H. Jean Birnbaum