Guest post by GARGI MISHRA AND SHREYA MUNOTH
Do a woman’s attire, appearance, sexual history or prior relationship with a perpetrator of sexual violence constitute a valid defence for a perpetrator of a sexual offence? Does the meaning of consent vary for educated women? The law, as it stands, doesn’t permit these factors to be taken into account while adjudicating crimes of violence against women nor does it prescribe varying standards. Unfortunately, however, deeply ingrained patriarchal mindsets rear their ugly heads ever so often flouting express statutory proscriptions, most recently demonstrated by two judgments delivered in the last fortnight dealing with rape.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court suspended the sentences of three students granted by the trial court for the rape of another student. The basis for this suspension, amongst others, was the victim’s “misadventures and experiments”, her “promiscuity” and the absence of brutal violence accompanying the sexual assault. Close on the heels of this, the Delhi High Court, on appeal, acquitted Mahmood Farooqui, a filmmaker, overturning the trial court’s verdict of finding him guilty of rape having performed forced oral sex on a visiting woman scholar. While so doing, the Delhi High Court purposively misinterpreted the position of law on what constitutes consent and seems to have been largely influenced by the victim’s previous relationship with Farooqui, her being educated (a “woman of letters”), the supposed feebleness with which she said ‘no’ to the sexual act, and the fact of Farooqui’s bipolar disorder. Continue reading “Violence against women – two patriarchal judgements: Gargi Mishra and Shreya Munoth”