Madras High Court Judge P. Devadass last month let a convicted rapist out of prison on bail so he could “mediate” with his victim and heal their rift, citing the "happy conclusion" of another case in which a rapist agreed to marry his victim.
The victim “has become mother of a child,” the judge wrote. “But as on date, she is nobody’s wife. So, she is an unwed mother. Now there is a big question mark looming large before [the victim] as well as her child, who is completely innocent.”
His order prompted a public outcry and what was seen as a rebuke by India's Supreme Court, which ruled July 1 on a different case that any compromise between a rape victim's family and a perpetrator would be a "spectacular error."
Devadass recalled his order Saturday and said that the parties should be stopped from attending a planned mediation session and that the rapist should be taken back into custody.
In a country where reports of rapes are on the rise and violence against women remains a public flash point, politicians and police are routinely in the news for insensitive remarks about sexual violence, including blaming rapes on women — for wearing provocative clothing, flirting on their cellphones and staying out too late at night. “They are boys. Mistakes happen,” one state politician said.
But Indian judges have made their share of controversial statements as well, as evidenced by these examples:
1. A judge in Delhi said there was a “very disturbing trend” of young women consenting to sex with their lovers and then claiming rape. The judge, Virender Bhat, said in a 2013 ruling:
“The girls in such cases are mostly in the age group of 19 – 24 years, thus mature enough to understand the consequences of their acts and not so numb to get carried away with any representations of the boy,” the judge wrote in State v. Sushil Kumar. “They voluntarily elope with their lovers to explore the greener pastures of bodily pleasure and on return to their homes, they conveniently fabricate the story of kidnap and rape in order to escape scolds and harsh treatment from the parents. It is these false cases which tend to trivialize the offences of rape and undermine its gravity.”
A division bench of the high court later chided Bhat for his “insensitive” observations and suggested that he undergo gender-sensitivity training.
2. Bhat also said that women who engage in premarital sex are "immoral." The very next day after the high court's criticism, Bhat ruled the following in a rape case, State v. Ashish Kumar, in which the victim said she had been duped into having sex and then abandoned at the altar:
“When a grown up, educated and office going woman subjects herself to sexual intercourse with a friend or colleague on the latter’s promise he would marry her, she does so at her own peril... She must understand that she is engaging in an act which is not only immoral but also against the tenets of every religion. No religion in the world allows pre-marital sex.”
3. A retired judge in the state of Kerala said child prostitution “is not rape." He sparked controversy in 2013 when he told a journalist that he had dismissed the case of 35 men who gang-raped a child sex worker in the 1990s using that logic. He later said he had been filmed without his knowledge by a hidden camera.
4. A 14-year-old girl's rapist was acquitted because she did not fight “like a wild animal” during the sexual assault. The Supreme Court dismissed a second appeal of the case in 2013, expressing “anguish” that the prosecution and the Madhya Pradesh trial court had not been more careful and shown more sensitivity “considering its facts and circumstances.”