news Thursday, June 25, 2015 - 05:30
  “He put drugs in my cool drink and raped me. When I became pregnant, he threatened me, told me to have an abortion. Why should I marry that man?” asks 22-year-old Manju*. This is how Manju (name changed) has reacted to the Madras High Court’s direction that she and her rapist “settle” the case through mediation. In 2012, a Cuddalore Mahila court found V Mohan guilty of raping Manju when she was a minor. In 2009, she had given birth to a girl child. Mohan later approached the Madras High Court with an appeal against his conviction. It was in connection with this petition that on June 18, Justice P Devadass asked the mediation centre attached to the Madras High Court to assist lawyers of the rape survivor and the convict, and in case of a compromise, draw up a “Memorandum of Understanding”.  The past few years have been a struggle for Manju and her family. She used to work in a textile mill in Tirupur and has only recently returned to the village. Despite open threats and bribes, the family has held on to its dignity, stood firmly behind Manju. “After villagers came to know that Mohan had raped me, there were some who said that he should marry me. Even my family was under pressure and they did suggest it once. But he threatened me. When my brothers and stepmother learned of his attitude, they did not waver even for a minute after that. They went ahead with the case. They told me that they will look after me and my child, but I should never marry him,” she says. In his order, the judge has said that he wanted the two parties to use the Alternative Dispute Resolution method and talk to each other. He also mentions another minor rape case that he had referred for mediation and said it was nearing a “happy conclusion”. On Thursday, The New Indian Express reported that Manju was ready to marry her rapist if his family transfers some property in the name of her seven-year-old daughter. The report said: “The woman from a village near Thittakkudi told Express that she was always ready to marry A Mohan, who had raped her when she was a minor in 2008 and made her pregnant.” Asked if she said this to the newspaper, Manju said: “I don’t know. The person who called me and others said such things (rapist marrying survivor) happen in Rajasthan and it will happen to me. So I said if he will look after my child, then I will agree.” To fully understand why she said this, the rest of her tale is important. “I did say that he could transfer property (in my child’s name), but I said that in confusion, in anguish. His friend has told me clearly that they are happy with what the judge said as this will allow him to come out of jail. He wants to marry his cousin. But he sent word that he would marry me first to satisfy the court, then get on with his life,” Manju says. What Mohan did to Manju dramatically changed the course of her life, but her family has stood behind her throughout, and is upset that she considered marrying him even for a minute. “My brother is very upset. He told me yesterday he would take care of me,” Manju says. Her brother is a commerce graduate and is now looking for a job. “My family has suffered a lot. After the rape, he threatened me with pictures he took of me when I was unconscious. When I was pregnant, he and his friends told me to get an abortion. When I gave birth, one of his friends said they will smother my child with a pillow. That is why I left to work outside. I don’t want to see him, talk to him or marry him.” Reporter’s note: Throughout the conversation, Manju’s confusion was palpable. Barely an adult herself, Manju has a child she has to look after, because of a man who destroyed her teens and her life, and now faces a judge who says she has the option to “settle” the matter. When news of the Madras High Court judgment broke, some activists suggested that perhaps this was a case of consensual sex and the family had lodged a case, as is true with many other cases. But from Manju’s account it is clear that it is not so: A young girl is raped, and forced to live with the consequences of the rape. As she continues to grapple with the situation, she herself admits to having doubts on what her course of action should be. Can we blame her for that? *Manju- name changed. Read Anisha Sheth on why being "nobody's wife" is no reason to ask a woman to "compromise" with her rapist Read- Why should police constables continue to cook and clean for senior officers?