UPDATED: Face of the day

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Asha* and her daughter in the garden in southern India. She is determined not to give in. ARUN JANARDHAN/Indian Express

Today’s face of the day Asha* cannot show her face. She has no status in Indian society without a husband and like another case from 2008 she has been told to marry her rapist under the misogynistic, Islamic law of Sharia. * UPDATE: I assumed this, I cannot confirm that this case was tried under Islamic law like the other case mentioned in the article.

 

Three words, no rape victim ever wants to hear, have thrown a young woman in a remote part of India into turmoil.

Having tried to put the rape of 2008 behind her and to get on with raising the little girl born nine months later, 21-year-old Asha* has been troubled by memories and disturbed by the judge’s shocking suggestion: marry your rapist.

“When the judge took his pen and wrote this, did he think even once of my plight?”, she asked an Indian Express journalist in a video interview in the garden of her one-room home.

The judge in question, Justice P Devadas of the Madras High Court, has been hearing the bail appeal of V Mohan, the man convicted of raping Asha. On June 23 he agreed to the bail request on condition that Mohan try “mediation” with Asha. Mediation in a rape case is aimed at marriage.

His reasoning shocked people but this is the not the first time such logic has been applied by Indian judges. This logic holds that since an unwed mother and her child are “lepers” in Indian society, they are better off enjoying the “respectable” status of a married woman, even if the husband is her rapist.

“The case before us is a fit case for attempting compromise between the parties…he [the rapist] should be enabled to participate in the deliberations as a free man and vent his feelings, open his mind and moorings. Where there is a will, there is a way,” the judge has been quoted as saying.

He added that another similar case was “proceeding towards a happy conclusion”. In other words, wedding bells were ringing.

Lawyers and women’s groups have reacted with indignation but no one more so than Asha. In her garden in a village 80km from the nearest town Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu – the area was devastated by the 2008 tsunami – she expresses incredulity and dismay. With only her hands shown on the video, she sounds like a schoolgirl but speaks confidently.

“It is unfair of the judge to do this to me. The rapist only wants to get out of jail which is why he agreed to mediation. Can the judge guarantee my safety if he is in this area? Or my daughter’s safety? I am being forced to suffer again. Only those who live around me know what I have been through,” she says.

Asha was 14 when Mohan laced a soft drink with drugs and gave it to her to drink. When she fell into a stupor, he raped her. He threatened her parents when they filed a police complaint. He tried intimidating her into going for an abortion when he realised she was pregnant.

A DNA test proved his guilt and he was sentenced to seven years in jail. The conservative community around them, including their own relatives, boycotted Asha and her parents. When she delivered a baby girl, their exclusion was total.

After the death of her parents, Asha was left to raise the girl on her own with the help of her brother.

Much of her anger against Justice Devadas is directed at his failure to consult her before proposing mediation aimed at marriage. “How can he do this without seeking my opinion?,” she asks.

A group of senior lawyers in Madras has written to the judge to protest against the proposal. On July 1, the Supreme Court waded into the controversy. While giving an opinion on another, similar case elsewhere in India, the judges condemned the idea of mediation in rape cases.

They said marriage between a rape victim and her rapist “compromised” the dignity of the woman and anyone suggesting it lacked sensitivity.

Since most Indian women, especially the poor, have no status in society without a husband, they are occasionally made to comply with repulsive order cases either urged by judges to marry their rapist or, as in the 2008 case of Imrana, known by only one name, who was ordered to marry her rapist under Islamic law.

Imrana, who was pregnant at the time, was raped by her elderly father-in-law. In their wisdom, Muslim clerics in her village, treating the case as adultery rather than rape, instructed her to divorce her husband and marry her father-in-law. Once she had done this, she had to treat her husband as her son.

Imrana ignored their orders and continued living with her husband.

For Rebecca Mammen John, a Supreme Court lawyer in New Delhi, Justice Devadas’ marriage proposal betrays the same misogyny of the clerics in the Imrana case though with fewer mitigating circumstances given his position.

“A high court judge holds a constitutional post and when he passes an order which is so clearly misogynistic, he violates the Indian constitution in letter and spirit,” she said.

Far away, in a lush and verdant garden that seems to mock the poverty of her tiny hut and the nylon pink nightie she is wearing, Asha is determined to resist the judge’s proposal.

“I will fight this out my entire life. I will show my daughter the way I struggled and fought to survive,” she said.

(*) name has been changed to protect identities.

– Stuff

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIg4ncyj7KU


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