There is something about sexual assault cases in this country – the survivor/victim can be a child or an adult, but the number of acquittals is alarming. People on social networks come to accuse us of fake rape without understanding that we are abandoned by the system.
Countless women today are triggered by headlines that we all hoped would go in a different direction. The investigators are shocked, the nuns do not know what hit them. In the Rape case of a Kerala nun in 2018, there was evidence – medical and otherwise, witnesses, corroborations, days of cross-examinations and the trauma of the nuns who faced investigation by Church bodies.
If things had turned out differently, Archbishop Franco Mulakkal reportedly the first Catholic priest in India to be convicted in a sexual assault case. But it wasn’t supposed to be today. He was acquitted.
More often than not, survivors don’t have what perpetrators of sexual assault have – power, the support of a powerful religious body (as in this case), followers, an endless supply of money, and the “bro code”.
The nun concerned had to wait years for her complaint to be heard by the Church, police refused to file an FIR for months and then, finally, officials built what they say is a watertight case.
The verdict was greeted with astonishment. The nuns who supported the survivor have all been punished to varying degrees and are mostly isolated. Even if there was moral support, facing justice is an arduous and lonely journey in a country where cases take years to come to fruition. Not to mention that Mulakkal set up a media gag order to ensure that the matter would not be reported. How very convenient, right?
Survivors walk alone and are repeatedly traumatized by society. “Why so late?” “Why did you talk to him after that?” All this and more in a country whose people are by nature rape apologists.
Here, the nun was shamed and her character murdered. Mulakkal alleged that it was funded by anti-church groups. It’s almost always the singular answer of men: “She was paid by so-and-so, financed by so-and-so to sully my stellar reputation”. The #MeToo movement has seen these standard responses from men including MJ Akbar and Vairamuthu. This, despite almost twenty women naming each of them. In his case, MJ Akbar appealed the verdict and the courts accepted it.
For those, including female politicians, who fume and rave about why complaints are filed so late, one case that has been reported immediately is that about the actor Dileep. He allegedly had an actress assaulted and the act recorded to blackmail her. She immediately filed a complaint.
Five years later, with the special prosecutors resigning and the media gags imposed, the survivor had to write to the chief justice minister. The women who supported her faced work bans in Kerala because they chose to do the right thing.
In his case, his own witness friends and confidants became hostile in court. Recent revelations from Balachandrakumar and his statement have brought some hope. But do we even dare to hope in India?
Interestingly, Dileep and Mulakkal have the same lawyer.
Here, men who rape children are free. The only case that continues to amaze me is that of a plumber who assaulted a 7-year-old child at school in Bangalore. His lawyer, one of the most expensive (it was assumed that the school had hired him), argued that the child had imagined it. A medical kit was not administered in time. The accused walked free.
In India, the judicial system that is supposed to dispense justice is just one more tool to tire you out and victimize you.
Yet we dare to hope, we dare to ask for justice. Even if today seems gloomy, we hope for better tomorrows.
Praise the Lord! Mulakkal would have said.
(Chinmayi Sripaada is a playback singer, TV presenter and entrepreneur based in Chennai)
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READ ALSO : Is it right to deny a married woman the right to call rape by her husband rape, asks HC amicus
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