An Indian judge is under pressure to delete comments from a court order that questioned the behaviour of a woman who alleged she was raped.
Granting bail to the rape accused last week, Justice Krishna S Dixit of the Karnataka High Court said he found the woman’s statement “a bit difficult to believe”.
Justice Dixit went on to ask why the woman had gone “to her office at night – at 11pm”; why had she “not objected to consuming drinks with him”; and why she had allowed him “to stay with her till morning”.
“The explanation offered by her that after the perpetration of the act she was tired and fell asleep is unbecoming of an Indian woman,” the judge said, adding that it was “not the way our women react when they are ravished”.
His remarks set off a storm of protest.
Outraged Indians asked if there was a “rulebook” or a “guide” to being a rape victim.
Aparna Bhat, a senior Delhi-based lawyer, wrote an open letter to the chief justice of India and the three female judges of the Supreme Court in response to the ruling.
“Is there a protocol for rape victims to follow post the incident which is written in the law that I am not aware of?” she wrote.
“Are ‘Indian women’ an exclusive class who have unmatched standards post being violated?”
Appealing to the Supreme Court judges to intervene, Bhat said the judge’s remarks showed “misogyny at its worst”, adding that not condemning them would “amount to condoning”.
Madhu Bhushan, a women’s rights activist in Bangalore, where the Karnataka high court is located, described the language used by the judge as “shocking” and “absolutely uncalled for”.
“It’s preposterous to say women don’t behave like this. It has nothing to do with law, it’s judging her behaviour,” she said.
This is not the first time the Indian judiciary has been criticised for court orders seen as patriarchal and misogynistic.
In a a 2017 ruling, judges castigated a gang-rape victim for drinking beer, smoking, taking drugs and keeping condoms in her room, and called her “promiscuous”.
Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy had told BBC the ruling implied the woman “had no right not to be raped”.
And in a 2016 order, a woman who had alleged abduction and gang-rape was questioned about her “noticeably unusual conduct and movements post the assault”.
Rape and sexual crimes have been in the spotlight in India since December 2012, when the brutal gang rape – and the subsequent death – of a young woman on a bus in Delhi sparked days of protests and made global headlines.
According to government data, thousands of rapes take place every year in the country and the numbers have been rising over the years.
Latest figures from the National Crime Records Bureau show police registered 33,977 cases of rape in 2018 – an average of a rape every 15 minutes.
And campaigners say the actual number is much higher, because cases of sexual violence are grossly under reported. (Excerpts from BBC)