Recently, two Supreme Court justices ruled that sex on the false promise of marriage is rape. Naturally, I did a double take. On reading more about the case of Anurag Soni versus the State of Chhattisgarh, it became even more ludicrous. Justice Shah noted that the evidence made it clear that the victim would not have consented to the sexual act if she had not been promised marriage and hence it was a clear case of not just cheating and deception but rape as well.
Apparently, even if both the victim and accused have married and moved on while the law takes the scenic route towards justice, (or a skewed version of it in this instance) does not absolve the ‘rapist’ from the consequences of his actions. The bench proceeded to elaborate on the heinousness of rape, its reprehensible nature and how a rapist ‘degrades and defiles the soul of a helpless woman’ before reducing the 10-year prison sentence prescribed for the crime to seven deeming it adequate punishment for such a monstrous act.
While loathsome Lotharios are hardly deserving of sympathy, this judgement is simply wrong on so many levels. While it would appear that the ruling is in favour of women, the fact is that it has its roots in some seriously regressive notions of chastity and the misguided belief that a ‘good girl’ would never consent to sex if the offer of marriage wasn’t on the table.
That a woman has somehow been violated or rendered ‘impure’ if she has made the choice to have consensual, commitment-free sex. Now sensible folks have been fighting this kind of moral policing and antiquated mindsets for many yonks now and it is infuriating that there are insidious forces determined to keep women pickled and preserved in a revolting vat of virtue for all of time.
Worse, equating fraud with rape serves only to make a mockery of the sheer gravity of the latter. This is the last thing victims of sexual assault need given the abysmal track record our courts and society at large have when it comes to dispensing justice in cases of rape. In a land, where nuns sworn to devote their lives to prayer, service and celibacy have been slut-shamed for accusing a bishop, little girls who have been violated and killed are blamed while their perpetrators roam free because the long arm of the law seems to have atrophied, such a ruling is downright dangerous.
Inevitably, this will become the female equivalent of revenge porn, a weapon to be unleashed on men following messy breakups resulting in Casanova types getting caromed with rape charges leading to ill will towards the female of the species (She consented to carnal relations stupidly believing herself worthy of marriage despite her wanton ways and dares to call it serial rape!) as well as escalating tension between the sexes.
It will become even easier than it is now to dismiss victims of rape as lying and vindictive wretches who do not have the ‘moral fibre’ to keep their legs tightly closed before marriage. Thanks to such asinine legal interpretations of the tricky question of consent, the judiciary as it stands in India today has proved Dickens right. The Law is an ass.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org