Guest Post by REBECCA JOHN
(Rebecca John is a Senior Advocate at the Delhi High Court)
This is in response to some popular misconceptions about the 2013 amendments relating to sexual offences against women and some of the issues raised by Manisha Sethi and Anusha Rizvi in HardNews, (Confronting Certainties, posted on the Hardnews website on March 9, 2014)
1) Suo moto action by the police leading to the registration of an FIR:
There is no requirement in law that an FIR must be registered only on the complaint of a victim. If a police force receives information about the commission of a cognisable offence , it can register an FIR on it’s own. This is not the first time this has happened, almost all CBI cases are registered on ” source information ” and not on actual complaints made by aggrieved persons.
2) Bail in non-bailable offences of a serious kind is not usually granted:
Let us not trivialize the offence of rape and treat the dismissal of a bail plea as the worst kind of crime. Pretrial detentions are the rule in India – so if we want that practice changed, and I certainly do, let’s start with all under-trials and lets not just shed tears for the rich and powerful and pretend that this is an unusual occurrence. Please come to courts and see how the system works .
This is a revised version of an article that appeared in Seminar January 2014.
The past year is bookended by two extraordinary moments, both of them inspired by the courage and determination of young women who refused to take sexual violence as routine.
December 2012 – a young paramedic fought till her last breath for justice.
November 2013 – a law intern exposed the sexual assault she faced from a retired Judge and a Tehelka journalist taught Tarun Tejpal a long deferred lesson – No Means No.
The massive mobilization of public opinion around these incidents has reopened the question of ‘agency’ in familiar and unfamiliar ways.
Feminists have long asserted women’s agency in contexts of sexual violence by attempting to desexualize rape – in law and in everyday life. Taken out of patriarchal discourses of honour, rape is merely an act of violence that violates bodily integrity. This delicate balance between two opposing notions – on the one hand, that sexual violence has a distinctive character, it is more humiliating, more paralyzing than physically less harmful actions; and on the other, that sexual violence is merely another kind of physical violence – this is the razor’s edge occupied by feminist understandings of rape. Continue reading The Conundrum of Agency in Sexual Violence