HYDERABAD: Several women’s rights activists and collectives in Hyderabad wrote a strongly worded letter to Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Tuesday, condemning his ‘marry the victim’ remark and urging him to step down.
On Monday, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Bobde had asked a Maharashtra government employee, who is facing charges of raping a relative when she was a minor, if he intended to marry her now. “Will you marry her?” the CJI had asked while hearing a petition against an order of the Bombay High Court, setting aside a sessions court order granting anticipatory bail to the accused.
“We are not forcing you to marry. Let us know if you will. Otherwise, you will say we are forcing you to marry her,” the bench had said.
Distressed by the regressive statements, over 4,000 citizens, representatives of India’s Women’s Movements, students, senior citizens, advocates and filmmakers got together and issued an open letter to the CJI demanding an apology and retraction of his remarks. Members of various collectives such as the All India Progressive Women’s Association, Human Rights Forum, and Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh Samiti also objected to the remarks. “Propriety demands you step down without a moment’s delay,” the letter to the CJI read.
“We the representatives of India’s Women’s Movements and progressive movements, along with concerned citizens, are appalled and outraged at the remarks made by you during the hearing in Mohit Subhash Chavan vs. The State of Maharashtra & Anr. on 1st March 2021, as reported by the media,” it read.
The letter cites a second case -- (Vinay Pratap Singh vs The State of UP), also reported in the media -- where the CJI has said: “If a couple is living together as man and wife, the husband may be a brutal man. But can you call the act of sexual intercourse between a lawfully wedded man and wife as rape?”
Criticising the comment, the letter stated that it not only legitimises any kind of sexual, physical and mental violence by the husband, but also normalises the torture that Indian women have been facing within marriages for years without any legal recourse. The letter states, “From the towering heights of the post of CJI, it sends the message to other courts, judges, police and all law enforcing agencies that justice is not a constitutional right of women in India.”