Over 4,000 eminent and concerned citizens, women’s rights and progressive groups have endorsed an open letter demanding that the CJI apologise and retract his remarks of asking a rapist if he would marry the survivor and for condoning marital rape. The letter calls CJI SA Bobde’s remarks regressive, and states that ‘propriety demands you step down without a moment’s delay’.
Several news portals reported the exchange between the Judge and the petitioner’s advocate whereby the judge has asked the petitioner if he would marry the minor girl, he was accused of raping. The girl had alleged that the accused was a distant relative raped her and continued to stalk and threaten her. The accused had promised that he would marry the girl once she attains majority but he backed off from his promise hence, the FIR was lodged. The letter states, “It fills us with rage that women bear the burden of having to explain the meaning of ‘seduction’, ‘rape’ and ‘marriage’”.
The letter also refers to another case where the CJI had, reportedly, commented, “If a couple is living together as man and wife, the husband may be a brutal man, but can you call the act of sexual intercourse between a husband and wife as rape?” The letter states that this comment “legitimises any kind of sexual, physical and mental violence by the husband” and “normalises the torture Indian women have been facing within marriages for years without legal recourse”.
The letter states that this will lead to “further silencing of girls and women” and it sends a message to rapists that “marriage is a license to rape”.
CPI (M) Politburo member Brinda Karat also wrote to the CJI asking him to withdraw his remarks. “There is a prevailing retrograde social approach that the victim of rape is a ‘bad’ woman and if the rapist marries her, she gains respectability in the eyes of society. Comments of the apex court should not give the impression of supporting such approaches,” she said. Karat said that the message that comes across is that “a rapist can escape jail if after the crime he agrees to marry his victim whether she wants to or not”.