By slamming a Madras High Court judge for granting bail to a rape accused so that he can meet the victim for a possible “mediation”, the Supreme Court has sent a strong message to the judiciary at all levels. Any compromise promising wedlock between a rape accused and the victim compromises the woman’s dignity. The top court’s comments were made in the context of another rape case from Madhya Pradesh. Holding that courts cannot take a soft approach on the issue, the SC bench described the HC ruling as a “spectacular error” and lack of sensitivity on the part of a lower court which had allowed a rapist to go scot-free by accepting an agreement on wedlock.
This is a deplorable approach in a crime such as rape. Rape is a non-negotiable crime and there can’t be any mediation except in a situation where the woman alleges breach of promise to marry. Rape is a non-compoundable offence and the perpetrator must be awarded deterrent punishment. That a High Court judge could have even conceived of a liaison between the criminal and the victim underlines a mentality heavily biased in favour of the male which does not regard rape as a crime.
This is the kind of attitude which makes various politicians, policemen and others occasionally blame the women for the rapes, suggesting it is the supposedly provocative clothes that they wear, or their habit of travelling alone at night, which are responsible for the crime and not the bestial mindset of assailants. It is this outlook which made a senior politician like Mulayam Singh Yadav try to exonerate rapists by saying sometimes a “mistake” is made, for which the person should not be hanged. Behind this insouciance are long-held prejudices of a patriarchal society where women’s rights are unheard of. Boys brought up in such households look down upon women as inferior beings who should remain confined to the kitchen and accept unquestioningly whatever the men say. A sexual assault is a corollary of such upbringing since it is regarded as only a brutal exercise of the customary male dominance. The judge’s argument is an extension of this outlook where the crime is ignored and male pride is sought to be assuaged at the expense of the woman’s self-esteem.