news Friday, June 26, 2015 - 05:30
¬† Justice P Devadass of the Madras High Court, who was recently in news for suggesting mediation in a rape case, upheld ten-year rigorous imprisonment awarded to another man who was convicted of raping a four-year-old girl in Erode district on Wednesday. Stating that such kind of criminal behaviour does not deserve sympathy, the judge observed, "In the administration of criminal justice, pitiable plight of the victims cannot be lost sight of. The victims of sexual violence, the trauma left on them will long last in their memory, it will have psychological impact on their moral and physical activities. The painful event will refuse to fade away from their memory. The victim in a murder case dies once for all, but the victim in sexual violence case dies every day every minute." Justice Devadass seems to consider survivors of rape as "victims", both literally and figuratively. That he in his observation also seems to assume that survivors of sexual violence are stuck in a time warp of sorts- one in which they can never put behind their horrifying experiences and rise above them in life- has evoked strong criticism from lawyers and activists. Speaking to The News Minute (TNM) senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam said that though rape is a gross violation of privacy and is an offence, it does not mean that survivors of such violence cannot live with dignity. "One may have been hurt physically, but you cannot say the person does not have a future," she said, adding that the thinking that rape is not the end of someone's life should be promoted. "This judgement also reflects the wrong-headed notion that rape means social death for a woman. The myth is that 'rape is a fate worse than death', because rape is shameful for its victims. If you believe that rape is equivalent to shame and loss of honour, you will imagine that lost honour can be restored and shame repaired by marriage with the rapist. In reality rape is an act of violence, a violation. And marriage to the rapist is equivalent to sentencing the victim-survivor to life-long rape! How much concern or understanding does this judge really have about the 'trauma' of the rape victim, when he tries to tell her that she is doomed to suffer that trauma all her life. Such a notion leads to judges assuming that a rape victim is not genuine - if she does not look sufficiently traumatised and if she is smiling or laughing! Instead, what the court should be concerned with is with ensuring justice and closure for the survivor of rape, so that she can go on to recover from the traumatic act of violence, and heal herself and live a full life." - Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association Activist lawyer Indira Jaising said that Justice P Devadass' observation was "not a correct appreciation of the situation", and termed it "unacceptable". "Firstly," she said, "a person who has been raped is referred to as a survivor and not victim. And in this case she is very much alive and not dead." In his June 10 order, Justice Justice P Devadass suggested in a rape case that the man found guilty of raping a minor could "settle" the matter by mediation. V Mohan was found guilty of rape of a minor in 2012 by a mahila court in Cuddalore, and the rape survivor had later given birth to a child. Mohan later approached the Madras High Court with an appeal against his conviction. A judgment by Justice P Devadass asked the mediation centre at the Madras High Court to assist lawyers of the victim and the man convicted and in case of a compromise, make a ‚ÄėMemorandum of Understanding.‚Äô "As an alternative to the time consuming, cumbersome, expensive conventional court system, a new dispute resolving mechanism has been adopted by Indian Legal System. It is Alternative Dispute Resolution method (A.D.R.)." "In fact, even in Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, there are instances of solving the disputes in a non-belligerent manner. The result of it is very good because there is 'no victor, no vanquished'. Thus, 'Trinity' propagates humanity," the Justice observed. Read:¬†Dear Madras HC Judge: The survivor does not even want to see her rapist's face Referring to both the judgments, Karuna Nandy, an advocate in the Supreme Court specialising in human rights litigation,¬†commercial litigation arbitration, and legal policy,¬†said that both these judgments meld two lethal ideas. "First, rape reduces a woman's value to zero therefore shaming her, she may as well be dead. Second, alliance with a man increases a woman's value - even if it's to a violent person who has attacked her," she said. Nandy also feels that the decisions are damaging not just to the women directly concerned but also to the expectations of other women in Tamil Nadu who look to the Madras High Court to uphold their citizenship rights against criminals. "There is clearly a trend in some judges' decisions, individual intensive gender training, organised under the National Judicial Academy, would perhaps be appropriate," she said. Read:¬†Being 'nobody's wife' is no reason to ask a woman to 'compromise' with her rapist¬† ¬†

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