While America is busy celebrating same-sex marriages, and the Irish have just had a people's referendum to legalise same-sex marriages, in India, we have started to rediscover marriages as rape-permissible institutions.
When a single judge of the Madras High Court ordered last week that a raped woman and her rapist have to meet, mediate and marry each other, it exhibited the heart of rape culture that cuts across every class in India. The shocking fact that a judge, occupying a position of repute and power, decided to use the responsibility vested in his office to order a victim of rape to reconcile herself with the man who perpetrated unspeakable violence on her, shows that the idea of justice as practiced in the corridors of the biggest courts in the country today are no different from feudal, casteist khap panchayats and kangaroo courts. For all his education, for all the merit that had earned him this job, he seems to have been inspired not by law, or justice, or the inviolable importance of consent, or the self respect of a violated woman. Instead, his judgment reveals his belief that a rape can be 'corrected' by subsequent marriage. The learned single judge even said that a similar case that he had referred for mediation had achieved a 'happy conclusion', meaning the accused had 'agreed' to marry the victim. Once again, the question of women's say in the matter, the fact that no woman would want to live with her rapist, is buried and disregarded the same way in which female consent as a concept has been killed long ago.
It's this complete rapist mentality of entitlement and male supremacy which is exhibited in a judicial decision where a judge reasons: "the victim girl became the mother of a child. But as on date, she is nobody's wife. So she is an unwed mother. Now there is a big question looming large before the girl as well as her child, who is completely innocent." So many things are wrong with the statement of the High Court judge that it is difficult to even keep count:
1. Saying the child is "completely innocent" somehow implying that the mother/victim was culpable.
2. The fact that a woman being nobody's wife was in anyway problematic in a modern society.
3. The further implication that being nobody's wife at the moment also meaning that she had no chances of becoming anybody's wife in the future, and that as a consequence she has to marry her rapist in order to get the only chance at matrimony. Clearly, a raped woman, in the world according to Justice Devadas, is ruined forever and has no chance of a future.
4. The idea that being an unwed mother was a taboo, and even while it only reflects present social prejudices, seeking to set that right by making her a woman married to her own rapist, is problematic and misogynist and beyond outrage.
Clearly, the judge does not believe that this woman has any right, or any self respect.
To add insult to injury, instead of protesting about this, the Tamil Nadu State Women's Commission's Chairperson, Dr Visalakshi Nedunchezian has gone ahead to say that she would be happy to see the criminal and the raped woman together, adding that it was our "aim and objective". If this project of Rapists Marry Rape Victims is indeed the aim and objective of the Women's Commission, we are in troubled times.
This is the same mentality that does not allow for the criminalisation of marital rape. So, we have a situation where the understanding of the Indian judiciary runs along these lines: a rape can be corrected if a man marries his victim, and it is also fine, for men to rape the women they marry. This misogyny is dragging India back to barbarism, and this is not happening because of rapists demanding the right to rape, but rather, the system of governance and criminal justice in India which is normalising rape as long as they occur within marriage, or rather, the rape is shrouded later, with the sacrament of marriage and thus attains social sanction and respectability. This is nothing but naked rape culture. Now, we read of the Supreme Court refusing to entertain a petition on marital rape saying the Indian Constitution cannot be altered for individual cases.
While America is busy celebrating same-sex marriages, and the Irish have just had a people's referendum to legalise same-sex marriages, in India, we have started to rediscover marriages as rape-permissible institutions. Of course, raped women are only individuals in the eyes of the law, the kind of women for whom the Constitution cannot be altered. Some day our collective voices will be heard, and our screams will no longer be confined to our bedrooms, and that day, the law will be rewritten to protect our rights and not to legitimise our rapes.