judge rules sexual assault accuser wore 'provocative' clothing
A judge in southern India has ruled a woman wore “provocative” clothing, effectively dismissing her sexual assault complaint, causing public outcry in the country, where violence against women and girls make frequent headlines.
The district court judge in Kerala state made the comments last week while granting anticipatory bail to a 74-year-old man accused of sexual harassment and assault, according to court documents. He had not been formally charged.
Photographs produced with the man’s bail application show the woman wearing “sexual (sic) provocative” dresses, the court order said, adding that based on the court’s first impression her complaint would “not … stand” against the accused.
It was also “impossible to believe” the disabled man could “forcefully” pull the woman into his lap and “sexually press her breast,” the court order said.
The news sparked outrage in India, where women face widespread discrimination and allegations of sexual assault often go underreported due to the lack of legal recourse and a notoriously slow legal system.
Maliwal, in a video message, raged:
“If a judge will speak such language, what will the common man say? An eight-month-old girl wearing frock was raped in Delhi. Were her clothes also sexually provocative? Who decides whether an outfit is provocative or decent?”
She insisted that the mentality to blame the victim in such cases had to change.
The Kerala Women’s Commission had also hit out at the court observation, with its chairperson P Satheedevi terming it “unfortunate”, and said that by making such references even before evidence is presented and a trial is held, the court effectively dismisses the allegations levelled by the complainant.
India's sexual assault problem
Sexual crimes against women are widespread in India, but brutal cases of rape and assault are often dealt with poorly under the country’s justice system.
In 2017, a Delhi High Court judge said a man deserved “the benefit of the doubt” while acquitting him on rape charges, adding a “feeble ‘no'” could still signal willingness on the part of an alleged victim.
In another case in January 2021, a Bombay High Court Judge found that a 39-year-old man was not guilty of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl as he had not removed her clothes, meaning there was no skin-on-skin contact.
“Considering the stringent nature of punishment provided for the offense, in the opinion of this court, stricter proof and serious allegations are required,” the judge said.
On Monday, 11 men jailed for life for the gang-rape of a pregnant Muslim woman during Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 were freed on remission, drawing condemnation from the victim’s family, lawyers and politicians.