Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Supreme Court changes stand on rape criteria

For quite some time now, the Indian Supreme Court has been taking the stand that if a man offers a pledge of marriage to a women, and then has sex with her, and then moves away from his pledge of marriage, he can be convicted of rape. This was always a surprise, because even if you accept that in a relationship in this country, with its societal emphasis of marriage for a women, consensual sex cannot be equated with marriage. Even with a relationship of unequals, as long as the act of physical relations was voluntary, to call it a rape would seem illogical. After all, the scope for misuse is tremendous, relationships can break up after some period of cohabitation. The existing understanding seemed to be heavily biased against men. Well, it seems that the Supreme Court has thought again about this stand, and wants to evaluate it on a case by case basis:

A man having sex with a girl after obtaining her consent on the promise of a marriage does not necessarily constitute rape even if he retracts on his pledge, the Supreme Court has ruled. Such retraction by the accused would amount to rape only if the consent was obtained by coercion or threat, a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain said while upholding an appeal filed by the accused Pradeep Kumar.
The apex court maintained that there was no straitjacket formula for determining whether consent given by the girl was voluntary or given under a misconception of fact as it has to be decided on the basis of the circumstances and surrounding factors which led to the alleged consensual sex.

This new interpretation also treats women more fairly. The earlier interpretation would assume that just because a lady was promised marriage, she would agree to have sex. This assumes that they don't have the wisdom to decide on their own whether to have a sexual relationship, just for the sake of the physical intimacy rather than as a prelude to a marriage.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:02 AM