NEW DELHI: Legal experts expressed shock over the Supreme Court asking a rape accused if he was willing to marry the victim. Pointing out that such comments prevent the victims from coming out and reporting the incidents, they stressed the need for special training to judges on gender sensitisation. “The SC observation is a shocking one as marriage is not a solution for a rape survivor at all. These statements demoralise the victims,” said advocate Aparna Bhatt, who along with others had moved the Supreme Court to set aside a Madhya Pradesh High Court order last year granting bail to an accused in a molestation case on the condition that he request the complainant to tie him a rakhi.
In November 2020, Attorney General K K Venugopal, while assisting the top court on the petition challenging the high court order, had said judges needed to be educated on gender sensitisation. The national and state judicial academies must have programmes on gender sensitisation, he had told the court.
Voicing concern over the SC observation, Supreme Court lawyer Rekha Aggarwal said, “It is high time our society and judiciary stopped treating a woman as a commodity. Rape is rape and there is no question of condoning the same on the pretext of marriage. When we are treating every victim of rape as a survivor, then it is the need of the hour that in spite of giving choice to the accused to get married to the girl, consent should first be taken from her whether or not she would be able to cope up with the life-long stigma which the accused had given her.”
Preeti Pratishruti Dash, a legal researcher with National Law University, Delhi, said, “Unfortunately, the enforcement of the criminal law of rape itself reinforces prejudicial stereotypes about women’s sexuality. Rape is seen as especially heinous if it harms the marital prospects of a woman, since society, as well as courts, consider a woman ‘respectable’ only if she falls within the marital economy.”