It has been close to eight years since the Nirbhaya rape case had us seething in anger. And as revolting, as the incident was, what came across as even more shocking was how some people reacted to it. While there shouldn't have been any two ways about the incident in the first place, there happened to be those asking ludicrous questions like "But why was she roaming so late in the night?" and "who was the boy with her that night?"
Now, in a piece of distressing news from Bihar, an alleged gang rape survivor along with two activists has been booked and sent to the jail on charges of disrupting the public servants' work. As per media reports, the woman was allegedly gang-raped on July 6. She filed a complaint the next day, and finally, an FIR was registered on July 9. The woman was then summoned to court in Araria district where her statement was to be recorded before the magistrate under Section 164 of CrPC.
The 22-year-old survivor who works as a cook happens to be illiterate and thus showed up at the court along with two activists, Kalyani Badola and Tanmay Nivedita to help her with the process. However, media reports suggest that the activists weren't allowed to accompany her to the magistrate's chamber. After recording the statement, when the magistrate asked her to sign it, the woman reportedly resisted and insisted that one of the activists read it before she gives her signature.
Reportedly, the two social workers then attempted to intervene and help the survivor which didn't go well with the authorities. All three of them were consequently charged for disrupting the court proceeding by agitating and using foul language. They are now in judicial custody at a jail in Samastipur district.
Araria Sub Divisional police officer, Pushkar said in a media statement: “As per rule, no one can accompany a complainant during the recording of her statement before the magistrate. The woman and two activists face charges of stopping public servants from doing their duty and threatening the presiding officer and were sent to jail.”
However, Ashish Ranjan, Secretary, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan, refuted the claim and shared in another media statement, “The survivor was well within her rights to ask for a confidant. The court mistook her agitation as a personal affront. The focus seems to have shifted from the rape case to the misbehaviour allegations on the survivor. We have full faith in the judiciary and are looking for legal remedies.”
In a statement released by the organisation, Jan Jagran Shakti has further shared that, “She had been held responsible for the incident several times. Family members of one of the accused also kept trying to meet her and convince her to marry him.” The organisation has been insisting that while it's true that the woman started agitating while at the magistrate's office, it is only because she was asked to repeat her ordeal several times in the four days since the incident.
The organisation is now seeking their release on “humanitarian grounds." Meanwhile, one of the five rape accused has been arrested by the police while they claim that they don't have any substantial proof for the other four.
However, as mentioned in the Jan Jagran Shakti's statement, the case focus has certainly shifted from all those who have been accused to the misbehaviour allegations on the survivor. It is actually a matter of great concern that an alleged rape survivor has been put behind the bars sans any consideration to her mental health and all that she must have been through.
But then again, a sexual harassment or rape survivor's behaviour seems to be a graver concern for the Indian law and judiciary than the crime committed against them. Hardly a month ago, the Karnataka high court granted bail to 27-year-old rape accused by quoting that “the explanation offered by the complainant that after the perpetration of the act she was tired and fell asleep, is unbecoming of an Indian woman; that is not the way our women react when they are ravished."
Well, these incidents throw light on an abject lack of sensitivity and humanity when it comes to how Indian law deals with sexual harassment and rape survivors. I state the obvious here, but it is downright inhuman and cruel to ask a rape survivor to keep repeating her ordeal. Clearly, we need a change in how these cases are dealt with and more so to the kind of approach adopted by officials to address the survivors.
It points to the absolute failure of a country's law and administration when the survivor become the accused. We seriously should not be scrutinising and penalising these survivors for how they react in a state of acute distress. Will victim-shaming ever stop in this country?
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