In India rape may be a crime punishable with a lengthy prison term or even death, but there is apparently some elbow room for offenders. Social media users were incensed on Monday after reports quoted the Supreme Court of India wondering if a man accused of rape was amenable to marrying his accuser.
In reports that have since been widely quoted by social media users, the Chief Justice of India asked the man, a government employee who works with the Maharashtra State Electric Production Company, whether he was willing to get married. "If you want to marry we can help you. If not, you lose your job and go to jail. You seduced the girl, raped her," Chief Justice of India SA Bobde was quoted by NDTV as telling the petitioner's lawyer.
The case in question involves a girl who had been 16 at the time of the alleged crime. As such, the man had been accused under the far more stringent POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act. But there are some contradictory details to be noted. While the attack had taken place some time earlier, the rape complaint was filed around the time that the girl turned 18.
According to reports that quote the FIR, it was not a one-off. The man has been accused of following the then Class 9 student home from school, and one day forcibly entering her house and raping her. The girl alleged that he had threatened to attack her with acid or even kill her brother if she did not enter into a sexual relationship with the man. This apparently continued till she was in Class 12.
According to reports that quote the petitioner, his mother had offered marriage when the girl went to the police after the crime. While she had apparently refused, a document was eventually drawn up stating that their marriage would take place once she turned 18. When the time came however, the man refused, and according to his petition, this is when a rape complaint was filed against him.
Needless to say, social media users are not happy with the remarks. And while some contend that such questions are necessary when it comes to breach of promise cases, others have harked on the fact that she was 16 at the time the crime took place. Many online also appear to have found the suggestion that she get married to a man she has accused of rape problematic.
And while the Supreme Court had clarified during the hearing that this was a mere question, and that they were not forcing the man to get married, Twitter simply cannot keep calm.
"Someone tell them that marrying a survivor to her rapist isn't the solution!" exclaimed one user.
"We should make gender studies compulsory at all levels of education, only way to get rid of such absurdities, read another incensed tweet.
Some resorted to tagging Indian women's right organisations and asking them to take action, although we're not quite sure what they're being asked to do.
Now, with the case still before the court, it is true that he has not yet been convicted of rape. But as another Twitter user remarked, to marry one's rapist would be equivalent to "punishing the survivor to live with her abuser for the rest of her life". And if social media is any indication, countless others seem to agree.