The broken promise of justice in rape cases

Source: This post is based on the following articles.

  • “Rape & insensitivity” published in The Hindu on 30th August 2021
  • “The broken promise of justice in rape cases” published in the Indian Express on 30th August 2021

Relevance: To understand crimes against women.

Synopsis: Despite stringent laws, crimes against women continue. The problems go far beyond law and point to the legal and socio-political system.


The issues of violence against women continue unabated in India. While the Nirbhaya case still lives in our collective memory, on August 24, an MBA student was gang-raped near Chamundi hills in Mysuru.

In such incidents, the Apex court has been viewed as a saviour by the weak and marginalized groups. This is also true because of power asymmetry in a society where often police are seen to side with power holders.

Issues associated with the Indian legal and socio-political system
  • Legal system: Our legal system records that rape survivors are routinely killed or kill themselves in protest. But the legal system does not take any action on the root cause.
  • Media: Media discourse on rape is mostly spectacularised and sensationalized for TRP ratings.
  • Society immediately starts focusing on anti-rape protests and not on the welfare of the victim. Further, society also put restrictions on the women movements to prevent that from happening.
  • State response is focused on criminalizing anti-rape protests.
  • Victims are counter cased and victimized further.
  • Judiciary: There is no Judicial enquiry on why the victims are imprisoned on false counter cases?
Impact of the lockdown on rape survivors:
  • Victims were subject to intimidation as the system was busy fighting Covid.
  • No moratorium was declared against arbitrary arrests of women and victims of violence.
  • Guidelines on how to treat rape survivors during the lockdown were not announced.
Judicial observations to protect freedom of women:
  • In June, the Supreme Court had to order police protection for a couple in a live-in relationship. As earlier they were denied relief by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
What needs to be done?
  • Recent rulings by the Chhattisgarh High Court and the Kerala High Court, reiterating that any sexual act by a man against his wife, even if it involved force, is not rape. This can be course-corrected.
  • In the Aparna Bhat & Ors vs. State of Madhya Pradesh case, the Supreme Court accepted the “paternalistic and misogynistic attitudes that are regrettably reflected at times in judicial orders and judgments”. This has to be course-corrected by the judiciary by including more women judges.

Instead of curbing the freedom of women, society and the state must ensure the protection of women both in public and private places.

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