Rape laws On their use and misuse
Being used as a tool for “vengeance and vendetta” to harass, extort and blackmail males Difficult to distinguish fake cases from genuine ones
by Maheer Ashraf
India saw a paradigm shift in the crimes against women in the aftermath of the Delhi Gang Rape in December 2012. The only story that seemed to be in print, on air and in our minds and hearts was the story of a paramedical student who died after a brutal gang rape. The momentum is still ripe with thousands of debates, seminars and discussions happening everyday around the nation on how to prevent crime against women. Women empowerment and safety has become a political issue, with each party making these a prime agenda in their manifesto.
The stringent law brought in a year ago in the wake of the Delhi Gang Rape expanded the ambit of sexual assault but, as is being realised now, left it open to misuse. Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party got into trouble when he revealed the ‘other side’ of the rape story. Justice Virender Bhat while acquitting four people in a gang rape case in Delhi made an observation that it was becoming “difficult to distinguish fake cases from genuine ones”. However, he had to bear the brunt of stating the truth as many feminist organisations went on record to say that he needed “gender sensitization training”. Justice Kailash Gambhir said that the rape law was frequently being used as a tool for “vengeance and vendetta” to harass, extort and blackmail males.
The mere statement of a woman becomes gospel truth and the accused gets arrested and charge-sheeted. Even the frail, old and weak persons are not spared against the false accusation of rape. The saddest part is that just because of being a woman, she gets the benefit of doubt. Being a feminist, I cannot be against the empowerment of Indian women. But yes, I am strongly against the cheap attitude of such women who manipulate the Indian laws in their favour. This is because the misuse of these laws not only ruins the reputation of the falsely accused and his family, but also weakens the case of those women who have really gone through any molestation. It is true that men need to respect women, but it is equally important that women must respond accordingly.
An RTI response filed with the Delhi Police reveals that from 2008-2013, out of 27 complaints registered at 6 Police Stations under the New Delhi district, 11 cases were that of ‘rape with promise of marriage’. It is not only making a mockery out of the sacred institution of marriage, but also inflating statistics of rape which further depreciates our own society.
Many people will question my opinion that many laws are misused, why raise voice against this. The truth is that those laws don’t destroy families. These do! Moreover, justice cannot be based on gender of an accused or victim. Such cases become huge media trials for the accused and the victim’s name is kept out of media. Same is the case with dowry laws where a huge misuse is being made every single day. No doubt laws are made for our protection but their gross misuse is ruining families and the very fabric of our society.
We as a society are now witnessing administrative matters turned into rape, office politics turned into rape drama and rape law becoming a tool for blackmail, revenge and extortion! Similarly, dowry law is being used for abuse of men and their elderly parents who then have to pay through their nose to settle these cases or rot in jail. The worst part is that if men are acquitted it is not reported in media and by then his family has suffered the most horrible punishment. To sift the chaff from wheat requires sensitivity of lawmakers not only towards women but equally towards men because both in tandem form this society. It is important that we demand gender-just, gender-sensitive and not only gender-neutral rape laws.
By misuse of these laws we are only further endangering and deepening women’s vulnerability in the country. Let us stop this legal terrorism and ensure the strictest punishment meted out to perpetrators of crimes against women as well as women who misuse these laws. Ultimately, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Women’s groups and civil society also need to introspect whether these laws are not being made a mockery of and whether they are demanding justice or merely media space.
Because respect cannot be demanded, it can only be commanded.
The author is a freelance writer.