It’s not a new phenomenon that the burden of assault on women is put on women who already are the victims. This has been the mental tendency of many since long and the continuous measures to change it will prove futile if the women are held accountable for it. This unending circle of learning and unlearning is quite old but what’s new is the recent condition imposed on a person who sought bail. So recently, a condition was put forth to grant bail to the accused who was charged for molesting a woman in her house. The condition was that the accused should go to the victim’s house on Raksha Bandhan in the morning with a box of sweets and get a rakhi tied on wrist. In addition to this he should give Rs. 11,000 to her as a part of ritual and seek her blessing and he in return will protect her in the future.
First and foremost thing, how can a person accused of molesting a woman ask the same women to tie rakhi, which is a sacred symbol of a brother and sister celebrated on Raksha Bandhan? The mere tying of a rakhi cannot replicate the bond between a brother and a sister especially when you are emotionally and mentally not in a place to face that person again. This just adds to the trauma as no one would want all the memories being brought back by interacting with the person who tried to molest you just because he wants bail. Secondly, it was said that he must seek her blessings and ensure that he protects her in future. How can one expect anything good from someone when he cannot respect but outrage the modesty, let alone give protection? Isn’t the case of her being granted protection from him and not by him? The point is to keep the molester away from the victim and here it is done nothing but opposite. The interaction is only going to add to the mental pain and trauma. These were the thoughts raised in the minds of many when they heard about this condition.
Opinion of the legal fraternity
In accordance with this, Aparna Bhatt, a Supreme Court advocate along with a group of eight women lawyers from Madhya Pradesh felt the need to do something about the whole situation which resulted in them challenging the bail. With Sanjay Parekh, senior advocate, they filed a petition which highlighted that the bail condition reflects the trivialisation of a heinous crime through a simplistic stereotypical solution. The petitioners also pointed out that such conditions are against the principle of law. K K Venugopal addressing a bench, headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar said, “So far as present case is concerned, on the face of it, the court seems to have been carried away. Courts must restrict themselves to conditions under sections 437 and 438 (of the Code is Criminal Procedure)” He referred to this as a drama which needs to be condemned. These are the views of the people engaged in the realm of law but what also matters are the feelings of the complainant and all the girls and women who feel that their problems are dismissed.
Pursuing this further, the most important aspect which is not taken into consideration is the say of the woman who is the victim here and it’s only fair if her views on this are taken into account. Here, everything is in favour of everyone but the victim itself. The bail condition is for the man, the rakhi is to be tied to the man, and the one who will be forgiven here is the man, then what are the provisions for the women who do not want to forgive or get involved in any of this process? After all the accused is supposed to enter the same place where she was molested and now he expects her to tie a rakhi to him and sugarcoat all this with offerings of sweets and money and act like everything is fine. This brings us to the next issue in this condition which is that, is rakhi an appropriate instrument for bail condition?
Can rakhi, a tangible object which symbolizes a festival mend the misbehavior and make peace with whatever happened or is it the appropriate solution for a crime like molestation? The concept can be implemented but the feeling of happiness, forgiveness cannot be invoked artificially. This implies normalization of the crime and the makeshift remedy which can be passed off as a solution. Symbolism of a traditional festival cannot take the place of justice or replace it which has always followed the path of logic.
The condition of bail might have been decided with a good intention but it definitely does not favour the victim in any way but rather tends to create more mental stress. Here, the dignity of the women is at stake and a rakhi as a bail does not help in any way to maintain it. Article 21 provides for a right to life and in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India the Supreme Court held that right to live is not just a physical one but also to live life with dignity. But here the victim will face nothing but only her fear.
To sum it all up, the bail condition seems in favour of the accused but has not considered the victim’s point of view or feelings. Instead of feeling protected, the victim is prone to feel that her voice is stifled and her situation is not respected. And money or any offering cannot buy the forgiveness or the respect as both are earned and come out naturally from within. The person might be ready for this condition because he needs the bail but there is no thought of what the complainant thinks about this as she primarily has to be there for the fulfillment of the condition. This questions how women are taken for granted whereas they are the one most affected in these cases. As a community are we sensitive enough towards these issues or they just go unaddressed resulting into more normalization? The general hindrance and ignorance towards these issues have cost women a lot in the past and it’s our collective duty to not allow for history to repeat.
~ Rujuta Shinde