This news appeared in the Indian Express. This is a very important Indicator of the levels of sensitization our Judiciary has on issues related to women and children. If this is the statement of the Chief Justice of India just imagine what might be the situation in the lower Judiciary.
CJI advocates ‘due regard’ for victim’s wish to marry her rapist : INDIAN EXPRESS
Chief Justice of India (CJI) K G Balakrishnan today said that “due regard” should be given to the wishes of a rape victim if she chooses to marry the rapist or have the baby conceived as a result of the crime.“Due regard must be given to their personal autonomy since in some cases the victim may choose to marry the perpetrator or choose to give birth to a child conceived through forced intercourse,” Balakrishnan said. The CJI was addressing the national consultation on access to justice, relief and rehabilitation of rape victims, organised to mark International Women’s Day, which is being observed tomorrow. Several high court judges and judicial officers were present in the audience.
Women’s rights activists were not amused by the CJI’s stand.“His statement is extremely unfortunate,” asked Brinda Karat, general secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association. “We expect the CJI to be concerned about extremely low conviction rate in rape cases, delay in deciding the case and the fact that victims are more often than not also blamed for the occurrence of the crime. Instead, the CJI chooses to take this line. Is he suggesting that this could be a viable alternative for the victim?”
National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Girija Vyas also took exception to the CJI’s statement.
“I don’t agree with his contention,” Vyas said. “If what he has suggested were to happen, it would be an easy way out for the rapists, who would first commit rape and then, if caught, make an offer to marry the victim. For the victim, such a marriage would be like dying every moment. Rapists deserve the strongest possible punishment,” she said.
Union Minister for Women & Child Development, Krishna Tirath, whose Ministry organised the event, reacted cautiously, saying the CJI’s suggestion would have to be read on a case-by-case basis. In his address, Balakrishnan also said that judges, lawyers and social activists should not take an “overtly paternalistic approach” while making decisions for the welfare of rape victims.At the same time, he refused to accept the argument that “high mobility” of women in modern times was one of the reasons for the sharp rise in the number of rapes. “I do not agree with this proposition. Because it is the task of the criminal justice system to prevent and punish the culprits,” he said.
Women’s rights activists pointed out that the CJI’s view flew in the face of a ruling by the Supreme Court, which said that neither a proposal of marriage nor any other settlement between the rapist and his victim could condone the crime.In 2006, the apex court had observed that rape was “a crime against basic human rights” and violative of the victim’s Right to Life.
(With Agency inputs)
Respect personal autonomy of rape victims, says K.G. Balakrishnan
Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan has said “due regard” must be given to the “personal autonomy” of rape victims to decide on whether they should marry the perpetrator or choose to give birth to a child conceived through forced crime. Speaking at a national consultation on “Access to Justice, Relief and Rehabilitation of Rape Victims” here on Sunday, Justice Balakrishnan said judges, lawyers and social activists should also ensure that they do not take an overtly paternalistic approach when they have to make decisions for the welfare of rape victims.
“It is not possible for policy makers and judges to prescribe a ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ and we must make honest efforts to build the institutional capacity needed for the proper rehabilitation of rape victims.” Calling for a robust discussion on the proposed comprehensive “Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Victims of Rape” mooted by the Women and Child Development Ministry, the Chief Justice also said that the Centre’s proposed bill which contemplates the creation of fast-track courts to try sex-related offences, must also keep in mind the interests of the victim, and not merely punish the offenders.
“Adequate attention should also be drawn to suggestions for provision of shelter, counselling services, medical and legal aid. It must be kept in mind that an act of rape or molestation can have long-lasting consequences such as mental trauma, physical disability and frustration of prospects for marriage and employment.” He also referred to the ‘secondary victimisation,’ which a rape victim often has to suffer during the trial of the accused due to inconvenient, probing and often indecent questions by defence counsel.
“There is a very real phenomenon described as ‘secondary victimisation’ wherein the victim of a crime faces additional harassment and humiliation in the course of investigation and trial. Especially when the perpetrators are in a position of power over the victims, there is a strong distrust of the credibility of the investigation itself,” Justice Balakrishnan pointed out. “Some recent cases highlighted in the press have shown how the investigative machinery can often be manipulated to protect influential persons, howsoever reprehensible their crimes may be,” he said. “The investigators, prosecutors and defence counsels must exhibit an appropriate degree of sensitivity to the victims,” he said.
The CJI also highlighted recent changes in law, which provide that the past sexual history of victims must be ignored.