Chennai: Citing a Supreme Court ruling, Madras High Court Justice P. Devadass has recalled his June 18 order directing a rapist to go in for mediation with the victim while deciding on his bail application.
In his order on Friday, Justice Devadass said in view of the judgment of the apex court in the State of Madhya Pradesh vs Madanlal on July 1, the June 18 order of the Madras High Court directing the parties to go for mediation was recalled.
“Consequently, the interim bail granted to the petitioner is cancelled,” the judge said.
The apex court had held that there could be no mediation or compromise in rape cases in the name of promising marriage between the victim and the rapist.
On June 18, while deciding on the bail petition from the accused V. Mohan and seeking to suspend his sentence, Justice Devadass directed the parties Mohan and his rape victim to go for mediation.
“The Officer-in-Charge, Mediation Centre attached to this court shall stop the parties from attending the mediation. The Registrar (Judicial) of this court shall ensure compliance of this order,” the Madras High Court order has said.
The counsel for Mohan – the petitioner – submitted that the accused would surrender before the trial court on July 13.
The June 18 order of mediation by the high court resulted in sharp reactions across the country with activists terming it as demeaning the victim.
The rape victim has opposed to the mediation as the accused had not visited her even once and denied the girl child born after the rape as his. It was the DNA test that proved the child was fathered by Mohan.
In Sierra Leone, cases involving the abuse of women have rarely been prosecuted. Spousal abusers, child abusers and even rapists have, too often, walked free.
A group of lawyers and judges — all of them female — has decided to take action to change that.
“We’ve seen a lot of issues affecting our women and girls in our society, and we believe that, with the expertise that we have, we can make a difference by rendering services to the women and children who need it most,” said Fatmata Sorie, an attorney and president of the group Legal Access through Women Yearning for Equality Rights and Social justice (LAWYERS).
The group was founded 22 years ago and offers pro bono legal work to those in need. One of the founding members was Patricia Kabbah, a former first lady of Sierra Leone and a lawyer herself.
LAWYERS has about 50 members, and Sorie says they discourage out-of-court settlements in rape cases, preferring to prosecute attackers to the full extent of the law. They also prosecute accessories to the crime. The group conducts outreach to families, encouraging people to break their silence about sexual violence.
“We also start within our homes because, in most homes, we don’t sit down as parents, as families, to discuss issues,” she said. “So most of the time the children, the women, are not aware of the signs and symptoms. They’re not aware of anything until it had fully happened, so the conversation has to start from the bottom up.”
In an unprecedented move, President Julius Maada Bio in February declared rape and sexual violence a national emergency. The country had more than 8,500 reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence last year, but observers believe thousands of additional cases go unreported.
According to the Rainbo Initiative, a Sierra Leonean organization that helps survivors of gender-based violence, 93 percent of victims treated are younger than 17 years of age, and 24 percent are younger than 11.
The presidential declaration is already having an effect.
“We believe the most prominent impact so far is that we will have more numbers coming out because people feel more comfortable coming up to report these cases,” Sorie said. “And we also have a situation where the regulations are passed based on the declaration that was made by the president. The process for prosecuting sexual penetration and rape cases would be much shorter based on the instruction and the directives.”
The president also created a special police division to handle rape cases. But Sorie believes there is more work to be done. She would like to see the maximum penalty for rape increased to life in prison from the current limit of 15 years and wants stronger witness-protection programs. She also said the nation needs additional medical facilities to treat rape victims and forensics labs to test DNA samples.
“We need to keep the fight going and to curb this menace within our society,” she said. (VOA)