Shaming of the mother in Pascal child abuse case shows all that's wrong with our legal system

The defence’s strategy was simple: To prove that she was a "bad mother" and an "immoral woman".
Shaming of the mother in Pascal child abuse case shows all that's wrong with our legal system
Shaming of the mother in Pascal child abuse case shows all that's wrong with our legal system

Last week, a sessions court in Bengaluru acquitted Pascal Mazurier, a former French diplomat, in a child rape case. Pascal was accused of raping his own daughter by his now-estranged wife, Suja Jones. While she and her lawyer have said that they will appeal against the acquittal, the questioning that she went through in the court reeks of misogyny.

While the case was against Pascal Mazurier, the person put on trial was the complainant, the mother of the victim. Building on the media narrative at the time of Pascal’s arrest, the defence lawyer asked her about everything from her clothes, her friends, her relationship with her sister’s husband, her spending habits…

And again and again, the judgment copy shows, she was questioned about her ‘partying’, and whether her husband disapproved of it.

The ‘bad mother’ argument

In cases of child abuse, it is very difficult for mothers to come forward and file a case against the accused - especially when the accused is the father. Often, the defence in the case sets out to malign the character of the victim’s mother, and that’s exactly what happened in the Pascal Mazurier case.

The questioning in the case, at multiple points, was around whether the mother frequently stepped out to parties with her ‘male and female friends’, while leaving her children in the care of nannies, and her husband Pascal. While the mother denied it multiple times, the question was repeatedly asked, and this ‘evidence’ is taken into consideration while providing the judgment.

The judgment also questioned her for ‘leaving’ her children in the care of their father. “If at all she being a dutiful mother she ought not to have left the home by leaving the responsibility of the children on her husband for shopping,” the judgment reads.

The ‘immorality evidence’

Another question that came up multiple times during the questioning is whether she took private photos.

While the complainant accepted that she had taken a private photo - at the request of her husband, and the accused, Pascal Mazurier - the court still judged her for it.

“In this case it is undisputed that this complainant is in the habit of moving with the friends,” the judgement reads, and that she also admitted that she had taken private photos in the absence of her husband, “to which she has offered explanation that her husband had requested her to send her photos,” the judgment says.

The questioning also repeatedly focussed on the fact that she had ‘male and female friends’ when her husband was not around.

Another point on which she was put on trial was on her alleged relationship with her brother-in-law - who has no connection with the case.

The defence’s argument was that as a woman of ‘immoral character’, she wanted to implicate her husband because he was unhappy with her.

‘He had regular sex with his wife, why would he rape the child?’

But the most shocking part of the judgment is perhaps the claim that since the accused was getting sex regularly, he wouldn’t therefore rape his child.

“It is undisputed that the accused and the complainant were having regular sexual intercourse. Then what was the necessity for the accused to have sexually abuse on his own child,” the judgment claims.

Child’s testimony disregarded

The fact that the child herself said that her father had hurt her has been completely disregarded in the judgment.

“I love Papa but he should not hurt me,” the child had said in her statement. She had also pointed at her father to say that he hurt her in her private parts.

But the judgment has disregarded this by claiming that since the child said she loves and misses her father, she couldn’t have been abused by him.

Mother attacked for approaching NGO

The defence and the judgment also attacked the mother for taking the help of an NGO to pursue the case.

Suja had approached an NGO, Enfold, for advice on how to take the case forward. The very fact that she asked for help has been painted as a conspiracy. The judgment in fact blames the mother for being prepared to face such a case in court.

“It is highlighted that she planned, searched, met several NGOs, Doctors, Advocates, read articles on internet,” the judgment reads, and this has been taken as proof of the fact that the mother wanted to falsely indict her husband.

Testimonies that weren’t

The judgment was also given on the basis of a driver and a nanny’s statements, who were never present in court for questioning. The statements were given to the police, and neither of them were called to court during the trial.

The two witnesses have given a certificate of good character to the accused for one reason: He did not go to ‘night parties’, while she did. And the statement was accepted on face value, to declare whether or not an accused had committed rape.

“Further the behaviour of the accused is appreciated by the house maid and also the driver because they told that the accused is of good behaviour and he was not going to parties, whereas this complainant used to go to night party and she herself admitted that she was attending the parties and she was arranging the parties in the absence of the accused,” the judgment reads.

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