Chief Justice of India Sharad Anand Bobde on March 01, 2021 in the open court asked a rapist to marry the victim in a Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) case. Bobde in another case on the same day condoned marital rape by asking the lawyer of the complainant, ‘when two people are living as husband and wife, however brutal the husband is, can you call sexual intercourse between them ‘rape’?’ These two statements from the CJI are being protested far and wide across the country by the women’s rights and child rights’ organisations.
All India Progressive Womens’ Association (AIPWA), Bengaluru, protested today against the CJI’s statement at the city’s Mysore Bank circle. ‘Join us to stand against the patriarchal system of oppression’ stated the poster circulated by the organisation. Speaking to gaurilankeshnews.com, Dimple, a student activist wondered, if the Court is ‘all set and ready to objectify women?’ elaborating on the reason for the protest she said, ‘we have to condemn these statements by the sitting judge of the Apex Court as it normalises rape and other forms of sexual harassment.’ Dimple asked, ‘How can the Court ask the rapist to marry his victim?’ According to her this is setting is wrong and a patriarchal precedence in the country where, ‘the solution for tackling the increase in sexual violence cases is to get a Victim married off to her perpetrator.
Further Dimple condemned Bobde’s statement regarding marital rape. The student activist asked, ‘does marriage mean a life long consent? We should ask what marriage is, is it a licence for men to act as per their wish and completely silence women? Is this the idea of marriage which is abusive and oppressive that the CJI advocates?’ Activists across the country are resonating the questions of Dimple.
over four thousand concerned citizens, representatives of India’s women’s movements, progressive groups and feminists, from students to senior citizens to advocates to filmmakers got together and issued an open letter to the CJI demanding an apology, retraction of his remarks and said ‘propriety demands you step down without a moment’s delay’. The open letter states that, “From the towering heights of the post of CJI of the Supreme Court, it sends the message to other courts, judges, police and all other law enforcing agencies that justice is not a constitutional right of women in India. This will only lead to the further silencing of girls and women, a process that took decades to break. To the rapists, it sends the message that marriage is a licence to rape; and that by obtaining such a licence, the rapist can post facto decriminalise and legalise his act.”
The representatives of India’s women’s movements in an open letter to Bobde had noted, ‘It fills us with rage that women bear the burden of having to explain the meaning of ‘seduction’, ‘rape’, and ‘marriage’ even to the Chief Justice of India, a man, who unlike us, holds the power and duty to interpret the Constitution of India and sit in judgement.’
Nirmala, state secretary of AIPWA, who was at the protest today observed that the womens’ rights activists in the country have been consistently fighting for womens’ rights. ‘Womens’ rights organisations have been fighting against institutional violence, patriarchy and widespread misogyny. We simply cannot not remain silent when statements like these are made by the judiciary itself,’ she said. Nirmala also explained that the organisations are heavily invested in protesting several attacks on women’s rights and dignity and would do so in this case too. The activist also pointed out that ‘the current political environment which is presided by a government that does not uphold the values in the Constitution and values of Baba Sahed Ambedkar sets a stage for such regressive ideas.’
All India Lawyers’ Association for Justice in its statement had condemned these statements of the CJI. The statement read, ‘in one instance, relief is offered to the alleged rapist if he marries the girl he repeatedly raped when she was a minor, while in another, marriage is used as a reason to justify rape. The understanding appears to be that marriage absolves the rapist of the crime and also that once a woman is married to a man, she is his to abuse, injure and rape with impunity. Marriage is sanctioned as the tool, which casts a woman out of the ambit of protection of rule of law constitutionally guaranteed in this country. It is of grave concern that the CJI has made such comments, which are not only retrograde but are in fact dangerous precedents. On the contrary, the message that ought to be given is that any infringement on the dignity of women and endangering their safety would be dealt with strictly.’