Revolutionary Rehabilitation: Marry Your Rapist

March 27, 2010
Anuradha Prasad

As a child, I grew up watching films which repeatedly tossed out these irresponsible messages out at the viewers.

"The hero's sister is raped by the villain's sidekick. The sidekick does this as a personal vendetta against the brother or because the woman rejected him.

The hero's blood boils. He almost beats the life out of the rapist. The rapist is now shaking and shivering, all his lust and manliness has fizzled out and he begs for mercy and promises to marry the hero's sister and restore her honour. The hero tells him that he'll be watching him and he'd better treat his sister well, or else!"

Bravo! Or is it? I am confused.

Chief Justice of India, K G Balakrishna's recent remark showed that the element of ridiculousness is alive and well even outside a lame movie script.

According to him, "due regard must be given to the personal autonomy of rape victims to decide on whether they should marry the perpetrator or choose to give birth to a child conceived through forced crime" and "judges, lawyers and social activists should also ensure that they do not take an overtly paternalistic approach when they have to make decisions for the welfare of rape victims".

I didn't understand why I was perturbed when I first read this. Outwardly, it sounds innocent enough-if a woman decides to marry her rapist, don't stop her. But it also carries across a disturbing message, that rape victims should consider marriage as a solution. One cannot compromise on a criminal act especially something as vicious as rape.

In a society where victims are victimized further and treated as if they had somehow provoked the crime, she may take the decision to marry out of fear of ostracism or threats or simply because she feels she is out of choices. It is definitely not out of love or trust or respect for her rapist.

The result is, a disgusting man who has violated the woman can get out of a jail sentence or feels he has redeemed himself with this 'noble' act. The only reason he'd agree to marry her is because if he promises to 'return her honour' (when he had no business taking it in the first place) she might withdraw the complaint.

Or he may have raped her because she had rejected him. There is this irrational belief that once a man rapes a woman, she becomes his 'property' and no other man will go near such a woman. And she is left with no choice but to marry him.

So the victim ends up in a marriage with the man who caused her the trauma and who is to say he won't inflict more violence after marrying her? This is why 'interference' is required-to give her the strength to stand up for herself and to make sure that the criminal is punished.

Anuradha Prasad is a freelance writer living in Bangalore.
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