The abuse of a raped woman

Justice is a lottery.

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When I wrote about Mulayam Singh Yadav and his ‘boys will be boys’ speech, I was trying to make the point that while Mulayam Yadav is an ignorant asshole, his views on sexual violence are representative of our culture of victim-blaming; that how the country’s law-enforcement and medical establishment treats victims of rape is symptomatic of this culture.

This misogyny is also inherent in the way we legally define rape. Indian law defines sexual violence in terms of whether the “modesty” of a woman has been “outraged”. Why every woman must be “modest” is something nobody writing the law seems to have bothered to ask. The worst manifestation of this lunacy was the two-finger test to determine whether a woman reporting that she’s been raped is ‘habituated to sex’. I say was; it was standard procedure until about a month ago; I have no doubt that there are doctors who haven’t got the memo. [Emphasis added.]

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that what I said I feared might happen is now happening to a woman in Kolkata. She is now the victim of an establishment that not only fails to provide adequate care or support, but on the contrary seems to be accusing her of making it up (the joint police commissioner of Kolkata has apparently held press conferences where he has said he finds the victims statements inconsistent). She has also been at the mercy of a doctor who clearly didn’t get the memo about what not to do during a medical examination of a victim of sexual abuse:

[…] the doctor asked the victim a few questions and took a vaginal swab which he gave to the police for forensic examination. However, the detailed protocols as mandated by the MoHFW guidelines (page 23-36) were not followed. Some key specimen (like pubic hair samples) were not collected/looker for and some outdated and irrelevant information (relating to the hymen, elasticity of vagina, admissibility of fingers etc.) was noted on the ‘report’ – clearly flouting the March 19 guidelines, which make us believe that the doctor who performed the preliminary examination is not aware of the MoHFW guidelines and protocols.

[…]
Besides, no steps were taken for the victim’s medical care, and health concerns. No urine test or testing for HIV was done and no psychosocial care was offered. When she requested the doctor to take samples/pictures of fingerprints of the culprit that might still be there on specific places of her body she was curtly told that the doctor knows what he is supposed to do. The doctor did not even use the correct and detailed form to record details of the medical examination. (page 62, MoHFW guidelines). It appeared that the hospital does not have a copy of either the new guidelines or the correct form.

That there are doctors who haven’t kept up with the law isn’t surprising. That this is happening in Kolkata’s second biggest government hospital is. That the doctor is either so much of an ass or so cynical that he can barely go through the motions even when faced with a woman who has been raped is both surprising and shocking.

I dare not imagine what the situation is in small towns and villages.

Here she is, a politically aware, intelligent and brave young woman who was lucky to have so much immediate support from her student comrades and women’s organizations. Even she has to experience so many hurdles and so much of stigma and maligning attempts, just during the immediate aftermath of her traumatic experience. Justice remains elusive as ever. Her father wants justice for his daughter, but is extremely skeptical about the prospect of justice, going by the prevailing standards and conviction rates. One can imagine what women of lesser privilege and in places where even basic medico-legal infrastructure are missing, go through. Justice is a lottery.

From Kavitha, who pointed me to the Kafila article.

Sexual abuse, then and now

One in three women will experience sexual abuse or rape in her lifetime, statistics say. A large fraction of this will be abuse by somebody known to the victim. And the woman will be blamed for it. We can do better. We must do better.

I wrote the last time about sexual abuse and how what people in the public eye say about these things is only reflective of the society they are part of; that vilifying them without attempting to reform society is likely to do nothing. I have a couple of for-instances to show about what I mean.

The first video below is a movie review of what seems like a horrendously bad movie called Jaani Dushman. I’d call this the Gunda of the noughties, but I probably don’t know enough. The bit of interest to me is from 0:43 to 2:30. (But go ahead and watch the rest of the video too. They’re good, the reviewers.)

The last thing the reviewers say about the  attempted rape is significant: “this was in 2002.” And here we are, a decade later. Should we be pleased that at least some people find what is said in the movie about rape obviously idiotic? Should we be distressed that a decade later, leading politicians seem to be saying the same thing that the movie did?

The second video below is a short film called Bol, by a filmmaker called Pooja Batura Pathak. The short film portrays graphically what I suggest above about how we don’t, as a society, seem to have changed at all in how we deal with sexual abuse. (fn1)

One in three women will experience sexual abuse or rape in her lifetime, statistics say. A large fraction of this will be abuse by somebody known to the victim. And the woman will be blamed for it. We can do better. We must do better.

HT: Sharmila pointed me to the review of Jaani Dushman. I can’t remember where I found the short film.


fn1: I do have some quibbles about the short film. Is it important to show the girl in the short shorts doing a silent prayer as she passes a temple? What does religious belief have to do with what the girl goes through later? But, like I said, these are quibbles.