VILLUPURAM: In a controversial action, personnel of the All Women Police Station (AWPS) at Ulundurpet here not only let off a man accused of raping a physically challenged woman but also blessed his wedding with the victim after local villagers intervened and worked out a “compromise”. The incident happened on Thursday. The marriage took place at the Siddhi Vinayakar temple located close to the police station in the presence of village elders and police personnel.
The shocking reconciliatory approach of the police comes close on the heels of a judge of the Madras High Court being forced to withdraw his order recommending mediation between a rapist and his victim in Cuddalore district following nationwide outrage. The Supreme Court had also strongly disapproved of adopting a lenient approach in sexual harassment cases calling any such attempt a “spectacular error”.
According to sources, the accused, engaged in electric repair works, had acquainted himself with a 25-year-old woman who suffered from partial visual and hearing impairment, when he had gone to her house in a hamlet near Ulundurpet. “When the woman was alone at home he forced her to have physical relationship and threatened her that he would end his life if she revealed it to anyone. Subsequently, he had sexual relationship with her twice on the promise of marriage but reneged on it and threatened her with dire consequences if she persisted with her demand to marry him,” said a police source.
Following this, the woman lodged a complaint with the Ulundurpet AWPS. “We summoned the accused for questioning. While he admitted to the charge against him, he refused to marry her. Elders from the complainant’s village, including local elected panchayat representatives, came to the police station and pleaded not to take action against the accused considering the ‘future’ of the victim,” the source added.
The villagers then extracted an assurance from the accused that he would marry the complainant. “Following this the woman’s father agreed to withdraw the complaint and the police personnel and village elders made arrangements for their wedding at the nearby Siddhi Vinayakar temple on Thursday afternoon,” the source said.
Justifying the decision of the police to let off the accused rapist, Ulundurpet DSP Sankar said, “we can’t register a case when the woman withdraws the complaint at the inquiry stage.” According to him, the AWPS personnel were only inquiring into the woman’s complaint when her father chose to withdraw it.
While he acknowledged that villagers and some social activists usually work out a compromise in such cases “considering the future of the woman”, Sankar claimed that in the instant case the police had not mediated with the rapist. “It was the villagers who spoke to him,” the DSP said adding, “we don’t hesitate to take severe action against a rape accused if the complainant is firm.”
Ironically, the accused is a married man, who had separated from his first wife. He also had a broken relationship with a woman from Kerala. Incidentally, on June 28, the Ulundurpet AWPS personnel had arranged the marriage of another couple too following a similar compromise.
Disapproving of the police’s decision, A Kathir, director of the human rights NGO Evidence said, in offences of this nature the rapist is not seen as a criminal.
“Instead the rapist is seen as the solution for the crime. People think that asking the victim to marry the rapist is the only possible solution. This is also because the State provides no protection and rehabilitation to victims of sexual crimes,” he reasoned.
Advocate Balamurugan of People’s Watch pointed out that the Supreme Court had previously directed the Government to enact a legislation to prevent mediation or compromise in such disputes.