In early December 2015, a student of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, who wishes to be identified as Kunjila, attended a meeting of the institute’s Internal Complaints Committee on sexual harassment, at which female students were encouraged to speak up (the committee had been revived on her request). Several serious complaints were made by students, following which three faculty members were suspended.
Kunjila herself made three written complaints, one of which was about a professor at the institute who had forced her to have sex with him in 2014. The ICC submitted a preliminary report about her complaint, and forwarded the case to the police without informing her. On the night of December 23, the police came knocking at her hostel gate. She was unprepared and wanted a little more time – she wanted to speak to friends and figure out whether this was the right step for her to take. She asked the head of the Internal Complaints Committee to accompany her to the gate, where she was spoken to rudely by a male police officer, who recited names and details mentioned in the complaint in front of everyone around until the ICC head asked them to leave.
The next morning, on Christmas Day, two police officers, one male and one female, arrived. Kunjila was asked to show them the various places where the crime had taken place, so that they could take photographs. She was traumatised by the experience and questioned her decision to proceed with the complaint.
On 31st December, she appeared before a magistrate in Alipore to record her statement. The magistrate, a woman, asked for her statement but did not take it down. Her statement was recorded only after she was made to recount it again.
The police officer handling her case told her that sh’d have to attend a medical exam as part of the procedure. If she didn’t want to appear for the exam, she’d have to state this in a letter. As Kunjila wasn’t sure how a medical exam would help, given the amount of time that had passed, she decided to wait for advice from an expert, who recommended that she go through with it.
Kunjila’s case seems to have been mishandled at every step and what she went through at the hospital should never happen to anyone.
This is her account of what happened.
“I spoke to a human rights lawyer and she advised me to appear for the medical examination that I was supposed to undergo. Any proof was valid, she said. So I told the police that I was willing to appear for the exam. Since my abuse happened more than a year ago it was certain that it wouldn’t give any results but it would just show that I have had sex. I don’t know what kind of evidence that is. It’s bizarre.
On 6th January 2016 I was taken to the Office of the ACMOH (Medico Legal), South 24 Parganas, 32 Belvedere Road, Alipore, Kolkata. We had to wait for a long time till the doctor came. I tried reading and distracting myself. I was tense because I had never been in such a situation where strangers would examine my pubic region. A woman came to me and said that she was not able to hear anything on her phone, and asked if I could help her. I asked her to switch it off and on, and see. It worked. She smiled and told me ‘I don’t know these things, you know.’ I smiled back.
When it was time for my exam, I was led to a room in which the phone lady was being examined. Outside an old woman pushed my face here and there and looked for identification marks. I showed one on my palm. She said she needed another. She again started pushing my head and face. Then she pulled at my muffler. I said that I did not have any identification mark over there. She was satisfied only after pulling at my muffler, tightening its knot and making me remove it so that she could poke my neck in places.
I was asked to go in. I was going to record the whole thing in case something went wrong. The old woman asked me to keep my phone outside. I insisted to the police officers that I be allowed to take it in. It was my body after all. They told me that I couldn’t do that, that the person inside was a doctor and I had nothing to worry about. I said that whether a doctor or not, they were both strangers to me. They didn’t let me take my phone in.
When I went in the male doctor was filling up some details on a paper. The woman said aloud about my phone woman that ‘two hands could easily enter hers’. The doctor and nurse talked in Bangla. The woman said something to me. I didn’t understand and asked her to speak in Hindi or English. She knew neither. The doctor told me that she had asked me to strip. I did.
The doctor read a line ‘she was raped twice a week apart’. I said that no, mine happened more than a year ago. He said he was not talking about me. He asked me where I was studying, what course I was doing, what the professor’s job was, where he forced me to have sex, if I had made films, how long they were, if I would be making lengthier films. At this point I shouted that he had better ask me only relevant details and that I was naked all the while he was talking so please hurry up. The old woman made me sit on a bed and asked me to spread my legs. She approached my pubic area with a dirty red rag. I still haven’t understood what it was for. Then she started pulling my vagina and looking into it. It hurt. I shrieked. She asked me to shut up. She was trying to stretch my vagina and it hurt like hell. I shrieked in pain again. She said, ‘Why are you doing aargh aargh.’ I said it was hurting. ‘Thuth. What hurt’, she said. One more time she pulled it wide, and I got up and wore my pants and said that that was all I was going to stand. I left.
Now please imagine a woman who chooses to undergo the test soon after being raped. It is strong evidence, after all. Why should she undergo this torture of her already violated vagina being pulled open by strangers? This is rape after rape. Why should she strip in front of assholes? And yet when she goes back home after this torture, like in SRFTI, there will be people who tell her that she is lying, she is an attention seeker, a problem maker. Why are our police, our courts, our people and the whole system all so against women that we are really at a loss where to begin to clean up the mess.
The police then made me sign a paper which said that I refused to appear for the medical exam. I said that I had appeared and left half way because it hurt. A man told me that I should have asked if it hurt before I gave consent to appear. Oh yeah, it was my mistake to even think that people wouldn’t dare do anything to a woman’s already violated body.
This system has to change. I am sure my phone woman took all this in without saying a word. I would have heard from outside had she screamed. The country is not making it easier for women, it is just making women accustomed to violence. Shame on this country.”