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Should a man acquitted of rape be addressed as a ‘rape case survivor’?

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By NewsGram staff writer

A trial court in Delhi recently expressed concern over society’s behavior towards the men who are accused of rape but are later found to be innocent. Additional Sessions Judge, Nivedita Anil Sharma, made this observation while acquitting a Haryana resident who was framed for raping a divorcee. She later withdrew her statement. The court further questioned whether the acquitted can be called a ‘rape case survivor.’

“In the circumstances, should an acquitted accused, who has remained in custody for a considerable period during trial and who has been acquitted honorably after prosecutrix deposed that he has not raped her and she had physical relations with him with her free consent, be now addressed as a rape case survivor? This leaves us with much to ponder about present day situation of veracity of rape cases,” the court asked.

The court further added, “Today there is public outrage and a hue and cry is being raised everywhere that courts are not convicting rape accused. However, no man, accused of rape, can be convicted if the witnesses do not support the prosecution case or give quality evidence, as in the present case where the prosecutrix is hostile.”

Despite being acquitted by the court, the ‘accused’ is treated differently by the society.  With the media continuously reporting on the case, resuming life can be a mammoth task for the ‘accused.’

NewsGram spoke with people to ascertain their views on the observation of the trial court. However, most of them were of the opinion that the word ‘survivor’ should be restricted to the person who has suffered sexual abuse.

“I don’t think that there should be a word like ‘rape case survivor’ for the people who are acquitted from the crime. The correct word to use would be ‘innocent’. The word ‘survivor’ should be restricted only to victims,” said Aapurv Jain, a final year student from Kirori Mal College, Delhi University (DU) who is also a part a Gender Studies Group at DU.

“We need to understand that to be accused for something, dragged through months or years of psychological and social turmoil and by the time one is proven innocent, his image is tarnished beyond repair. This is a sensitive issue. Such misery for an innocent person can be avoided if the court can pronounce speedy judgment,” said Upasana Iyer, a student from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

“From all the terms you could think of, survivor does not fit in. In such a case, rape survivor simply sounds wrong.  It can be someone who has been a victim and has fought back. Rape survivor as a term is very sympathetic and is driven towards the victim more than the acquitted. I agree that the man will be treated differently. It is even possible that if any such incident occurs in his neighborhood, he will be questioned,” said Janhavi Karkera, an advertising professional.

“Off late, we have been hearing about false rape cases and I sympathize with these innocent men. But their ordeal is nothing compared to the victim. The survivor word should solely be reserved for the victims,” said Meena Yadav, an artist.

“Even if a man is falsely accused of rape, it takes a certain frame of time before he is proven not guilty. Until then, the man is ‘demonized’ by the media. With the reach of social media, his entire reputation goes for a toss. His dignity needs to be restored. Although, I don’t think that survivor would be a correct word to use,” said Cyrus Dastur, founder, SHAMIANA short film club.

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)