• Sunday, June 21, 2015 - 05:30

As various organizations were busy conducting events to celebrate ‘Father’s Day’, Bengaluru witnessed a weird phenomenon. A man accused of raping his own three-year-old daughter became a prominent face at an event that demanded the “rights of the father” and celebrated “fatherhood”.

At a Father’s Day protest organized on Saturday by the Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), and Save Indian Family Foundation, sporting a ‘Papa Loves You’ t-shirt was Pascal Mazurier, the French national accused of raping his own daughter.

Picture courtesy: DNA

Five days before the protest, Mazurier approached the Karnataka High Court appealing for extended visiting hours with his two boys. The court has allowed Mazurier to meet them for an hour every month at a medication centre, in the presence of his wife and their mother Suja Jones.

Suja Jones, Mazurier’s wife has been fighting the battle in and out of court for three years and says she is devastated at the support Mazurier has been gathering.

“How can he be allowed the meet the boys? He has met them twice and in the second meeting he handed over gifts, even for my daughter. Even if I keep the gifts away, the boys will tell their sister what their father said. She is the prime witness in the case; does this not amount to influencing a witness?” Suja told The News Minute.

According to Suja, CRISP and other organizations supporting Mazurier have demanded that she should not be a part of the meetings.

Kumar Jagirdar, the president of CRISP, who is seen in many pictures with Mazurier and has organized Mazurier’s interview for the media many times in the past, says he has nothing to do with the French citizen.

During a conversation with TNM, he first said ‘what if Mazurier was innocent, then why punish him now.” But when asked what if Mazurier was guilty, how can efforts to make him meet his children be justified, Jagirdar said, “We have nothing to do with Mazurier. We are only fighting for the right of Mazurier’s parents. The grandparents are not accused in the case, and they should be allowed to meet the children. Suja Jones does not want it,” he said.

Jagirdar (wearing a black coat with the Mazuriers)

“Pascal now has powerful friends and money with him. Everyone appears for press meets that he calls, he is being touted as the ‘poor father’ who just wants to meet his children and I am the villain. There is an ongoing trial against him. Has anyone ever thought how this affects my children?,” Suja asks.

Suja Jones and Pascal Mazurier’s case has had a strange trajectory. From being hounded as “monster dad” by the media, in a matter of months Mazurier became the “husband wronged by a wife”. Many police officials too played an active role in propagating a “theory” that Suja had a lover who could have raped the child.

On July 2014, author Soumya Rajendran had written an opinion piece for The News Minute, and we are re-producing portions of the same.

Pascal Mazurier case and the story of victimhood 

After every rape case that makes headlines, there are the “wise” people who hop out of the deep wells in which they reside to graciously offer the victim some advice: what she could have done differently to avoid the crime.

What happens when the victim is a child, too young to be blamed for what has happened to her? Well, then, it’s the mother who finds herself in the dock.

In June 2012, Suja Jones realized that something very wrong was happening in her family. Her daughter, who was only three years and ten months old at that time, was trying to tell her something that she did not want to believe at all. When she couldn’t live in denial any more, Suja took her daughter to a gynecologist and had her worst fears confirmed- her husband, the child’s father, had allegedly been sexually abusing their daughter.

Suja’s husband, Pascal Mazurier, a French national, was employed with the French Ministry of External Affairs when Suja filed the case against him for raping their child. While the first reactions of the media and the public were to sympathize with the child and her mother, Suja says that these responses systematically underwent a change as people realized that she did not fit the mould of a “good” victim.

A crime reporter with a national daily from Bengaluru who followed the investigation since the beginning says, “Initially everyone questioned Pascal. A week or so later, the investigating officers started telling reporters, ‘Suja is not fully innocent, we think’… Any proof? No, they just had a hunch. Then they tried to plant stories about how the doctor who examined the child was a fraud, but that turned out to be false. By then, however, the impression that Suja had something to hide had been created.”

Conspiracy theories that Suja was trying to have her husband framed for a crime that a mystery man – purportedly a “lover” of hers – had actually committed arose after news broke out that the DNA from the vaginal swabs of her child did not match that of her husband’s. The reporter says, “The police ‘sources’ told journalists that DNA samples didn’t match Pascal’s. What they didn’t reveal was the full story – that the samples didn’t match those of the child’s either. Which means the swabs may have been swapped.”

Suja, by her own admission, is not the sort of vanilla woman who has stepped out of an Ekta Kapoor serial. She is educated, widely traveled, has lived a good life and knows her rights. So obviously, she should be the “type” of woman who has many lovers and is shall we say, not very “virtuous”?

That’s what the police think anyway. They wanted to know how many men she’s dated in the past, how many men she meets currently, what kind of parties she attends and so on because all of it is very relevant to the case, right? No background check on Mazurier, the accused, though. Not important.

In December 2013, on Christmas day, Pascal Mazurier, his mother, and some policemen went to Suja’s house. The cops were aware that this was a clear violation of Mazurier’s bail order, but they still went to request Suja, in the spirit of Christmas, to let the father be part of the festivities! Never mind that what they were asking, if the allegations are proved right, is for a child to meet her rapist. Not exactly a tearjerker Karan Johar family reunion, is it? Curiously enough, just a week earlier a newspaper report characterized Mazurier as a bereaved father who wanted to visit his children. Coincidence?

From being “monster dad” Pascal Mazurier became a “grieving father”, while Suja has turned into the villainous witch who is trying to break up the holy institution of the family. A sin that no good woman should dare commit, whether she’s being harassed for dowry or is a victim of domestic violence or is married to a man who is abusing their child.

The investigating officer (IO) who spoke to their daughte, was so eager to keep the sacred institution of the family intact, that he physically touched the child in different places, asking if daddy had done the same to her and if she loved him. In his concluding report, he wrote that the child loved her daddy very much and wanted him back.

Victims of child sexual abuse, as any psychologist will attest, are torn between conflicting emotions and loyalties. Especially when the abuser happens to be a parent. But the IO was probably just following his Bollywood instincts. We just love happy endings, don’t we?

When she goes to court, Suja ensures she dresses in salwar-kameez with dupatta. No sleeveless, please. She has to be the very picture of “modesty: or she risks creating the ‘wrong’ impression: that of a woman who refuses to hide under the shroud of victimhood.

It matters that she is covered up so the facts can speak for themselves. It matters that she looks the part for the medical evidence and doctors’ testimonies and the psychologists to carry weight. Suja complies because she knows how important this is- the stigma of sexual assault is something she’s lived with, through her daughter. She has had to move out of their expensive home. It was a nightmare trying to find a house because the minute the landlords knew about the case, they didn’t want anything to do with her or her children.

But what of the child, that brave little soul who wouldn’t back down till she was heard? From a child who refused to speak when she first went to school, Suja says her daughter is now blooming. She’s even become naughty, the teachers declare! She will always carry the mark of what happened to her like a burn scar, but she has moved past the pain of the wound. Slowly, she has started trusting men again; her world is limping back, sometimes galloping, towards the normal. Here is one victim who wants to sing, dance, and laugh. Does that make her a good victim or a bad one? Neither. It makes her a survivor.