By Shikha Sreenivas
The Bombay High Court has granted bail to a man accused of raping his adopted 17-year-old daughter. As Live Law reports, the court said that the girl’s accusation did not inspire their confidence because “she was used to [doing] all dirty things”, the order says.
In 2006, the girl’s biological mother had died of HIV, after which she was adopted by the accused and his wife. The supervisor of the Institution of Fatima Mata Sadan, where the girl stayed for a while after her mother’s death and before being adopted, informed her adoptive parents that when the girl was asked to write her life history, she found that girl had “unwarranted and unnatural behaviour”.
Based on this history the girl wrote, when she was around nine years old, the order reads, “Perused the statement written in the handwriting of the prosecutrix. She has admitted that she used to do all dirty things. It appears that she was inherently abnormal and had sexual instincts from her childhood, in all probability because of the environment and atmosphere where she lived and the conduct of her deceased mother.” Live Law further reports that, “the order further states that the girl had not disclosed the “act” of the applicant for a “considerable amount of time.”
The language of the court and the logic employed is nothing short of horrific. Does the mere existence of a woman’s sexuality (which is “inherently abnormal”) make her accusation of rape untrustworthy? And this is linked to her mother’s death from HIV, which is usually a sexually transmitted disease, suggesting again that it all boils down to the sexual deviance of women, and this ‘deviance’ is also the reason she would register a false case.
The implications of such a judgment are that the onus is yet again on the girl. The order does not say this directly, but implies it so — especially when the Bombay HC repeatedly mentions words like “unwarranted”, “unnatural” and “abnormal” to describe the child’s behaviour. The bail application submitted by the accused reads that he was shocked to read what the girl had written, and that she was “not new to sexual acts“. The causality here is interesting to note: Does it imply that because she is “not new to sexual acts”, what happened to her could not be considered an assault?
Last year, the Allahabad High Court had said that a prostitute also has the same moral and social rights as anyone else, so consent matters the same way as it does to anyone else. This is not to imply that the girl had ever done sex work, but that no sexual choices in the past (which aren’t criminal) can turn a person’s accusations of rape void.
The court, in its final order, said that the girl’s behaviour did not inspire the confidence of the court, it appeared to be untruthful, so they released the 52-year-old accused after 15 months in jail on a Rs. 15,000 bail. It further explains that the girl complains her father had started touching her when she was in Class 5, and though she claims it progressively became worse, she did not complain until she reached Class 12. This was one of the other reasons the Bombay HC cited as to why the girl’s complaint did not inspire their confidence. But it isn’t hard to understand why it takes long to register complaints of sexual assault, especially domestic cases.
The reaction of the court to this case is a perfect example of why it would be hard for women to go to the the police or court with their charges. The girl’s story does not fit into the perfect narrative of the victim that we have created. It is “the trouble with being a goddess”, as The Ladies Finger wrote in an earlier post. There is a certain narrative of the fearless, innocent victim we have created, and those who do not fit into that, are not considered trustworthy.