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Should marriage between rapist and survivor be allowed as a settlement?

END the settlement of rape cases through

compromise marriages between survivor and rapist

Gruesome rape incidents such as the Nirbhaya gang-rape and the Jisha gang-rape in India have led to a growing debate regarding the nature of punishment for perpetrators of rape and the rehabilitation of rape survivors in the country. In India, rape is commonly viewed as a form of social death where an unmarried rape survivor is looked upon as a woman who no longer has any prospects of marriage.

Moreover, courts in India are notorious for encouraging rape survivors to mediate with their rapists in the hope of reaching a compromise of marriage; what this means is that a perpetrator of rape is often pardoned if he agrees to marry the person whom he has raped. This is looked upon as the best form of compensation that a rape survivor can hope for given the fact that a woman who has been raped is looked upon as “tainted for life”. Some even laud the settlement of rape cases through compromise marriages as they believe that it is the only way to salvage the honor of the rape survivor.

We disagree. By being forced to live with the rapist:

  • Rape survivors are further traumatized, and lose the hope of starting life afresh. Trauma of rape becomes permanent with the rape survivor being forced to live with the very person who has raped her.

  • Women who are forced into such compromise marriages owing to pressure from their society have been known to commit suicide to end a life of unimaginable pain.

  • Pave way for greater incidents of rape with impunity.

  • Moreover, since marital rape has not been criminalized in India, compromise marriages allow for incidents of rape after marriage, thus giving a sort of licence to rape to the perpetrator.

Although many countries like Brazil, Morocco, Egypt and Ecuador have recently repealed rape-marriage policies that force the rape survivor to marry the perpetrator of rape, compromise marriages are still prevalent in several other countries such as:

  • Algeria

  • Iraq

  • Venezuela

  • Indonesia

  • Cameroon

  • Denmark

  • Russia.

  • Costa Rica allows the perpetrator of rape to be exonerated even if he merely expresses an intention to marry the rape survivor.

By allowing rape cases to be settled through compromise marriages, courts only exacerbate the suffering of the survivor and condone the actions of the rapist.

Our Recommendations

  • Put in place a law to regulate rape trials in India, where compounding of rape cases should be prohibited.

  • In order to remedy the harm already done by allowing the perpetrator to marry the rape survivor in the past, India should declare compromise marriages as voidable. Due to the pressure put on the rape survivor to marry the perpetrator, free consent which is a requirement for a valid marriage can be presumed to be absent in cases of compromise marriages.

It is time that India takes a more progressive stand to curb the frivolous attitude towards rape survivors. If India fails to take note of the dire consequences of compromise marriages, it would only be creating a culture which promotes the commission of rape with impunity.

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