It has been almost 3 years since the Nirbhaya case. The protests, desperate calls for reform, media attention have died down, and life in India has returned to normal. Normalcy in our country is synonymous with turning a blind eye to the oppressed, restoring to patriarchy and reiterating the fact that women empowerment, though widely spoken and debated about, is yet to be put in practice.
While it is imperative that women are respected and their rights safeguarded at home, work etc, it is appalling to see the guardians of our constitution who are entrusted with the task of safeguarding women’s rights and bringing the perpetrators to task, giving the accused an opportunity to walk out free. A lot has been said about implementing reforms, training police personnel in handling victims of harassment to make the judicial process less painful and tiring for the victim but the reality is far from our idealistic notions.
While some incidents of rape garner media coverage and make it to the headlines, countless incidents are brushed under the carpet. Even in cases that do catch the attention of the people, it is seldom followed up to ensure that justice is delivered. Most of victims fade into oblivion once the protests and proclamations of support on social media come to an end. We, as a country, never learn from our mistakes. Once the storm is over, we go back to repeating the mistakes that take a toll on our society.
When Suzette Jordan revealed her identity despite the stigma surrounding rape victims, we applauded her immense courage and strength of mind. But in one of her hearings at the courthouse, the defence attorney displayed the undergarments she wore at the time of the rape and asked her to confirm the same, while the lady judge remained a mute spectator to the injustice unfolding within the walls of the courtroom: which ironically is a place people throng to seek justice. The event, at the time of its occurrence, went unnoticed. It was brought to the attention of the public only after the death of Suzette Jordan.
This is not to say that every harassment case should be broadcasted and followed up by the media. But it is disheartening to see that the insensitivity of our judicial system was not questioned and the attorney/judge were not reprimanded for their misconduct. As far as the trial is concerned, 2 of the accused walk free (including the main suspect) owing to the loopholes and deficiencies in our system.
While some may feel it is unfair to heap all the blame on the system, it cant be denied that the mindsets of those running the judiciary play a pivotal role in determining the way our society perceives rape. The Madras HC judgment asking the rape victim to seek mediation with the accused is inexcusable as it reflects the regressive thought process of the system. The high court directed the victim to participate in the mediation process with her rapist so as to secure the future of her child.
This enforces the patriarchal notion that unwed mothers are an anomaly in the society. It sends a message that it is far more honorable to be married to a man who violated you instead of protecting your dignity by being a single mother and ensuring that justice is served. Apparently it is the view of the HC the result of solving such issues in a non belligerent manner is that “there is no victor, no vanquished”, which helps the parties in reaching a “happy conclusion”. Fortunately, the verdict was vehemently opposed across the country and the SC directed the Madras HC to recall the mediation order.
Such instances bring to light the shortcomings in our system and the ordeals a victim has to undergo to get justice. It serves as a loophole for the accused and destroys the dignity of the victim. Seeking mediation, victim blaming and crude remarks only strengthens the patriarchy that is deeply embedded in our society and makes the journey towards obtaining justice that much harder for the women of our country. Until such acts are condemned and those involved punished, empowerment will remain a distant dream.