Last month, three men were allowed bail after being convicted of raping and blackmailing a young woman starting at the end of 2013. Hardik Sikri and Karan Chhabra were sentenced to 20 years, while Vikas Garg was sentenced to seven years.
In a court document, Justices Mahesh Grover and Raj Shekhar Attri cite multiple reasons for granting bail to these rapists. The order has sparked many protests on social media, and friends of the victim began a petition to criticize the ruling. The petition currently has over 5,000 signatures.
The victim met Sikri in 2013 while studying at Jindal University at Sonepat. After a month, they began a sexual relationship, which is described in the document as being “forceful.” The victim broke up with Sikri, but he continued to torment her. He sent her nude pictures and persuaded her to do the same, then used the pictures as blackmail for sexual gratification and submission.
“[Hadrik and Chhabra] threatened me to sexually gratify [them] otherwise, they would expose my pictures in the entire University and send it to my parents,” said the victim in a statement.
The other perpetrator, Garg, was friends with the victim prior to her relationship with Sikri, and was aware of the “unfortunate dilemma that [the victim] was facing on account of the blackmail by Sikri.” Garg still took advantage of her despite their former friendship.
The document states that, “Even if the allegations [against Garg] are correct, [the nature of Garg and Sikri’s relationship] would imply casual sex with a consenting partner.” However, the document also clearly states that the victim was being blackmailed, and that Garg “took advantage of her.” How is it then possible that the relationship between Garg and Sikri implied consent? It is not well-understood how the court came to this decision.
Everything that the victim was forced to do in fear of being blackmailed is now being considered as an activity that reflects more on her character than the perpetrators’. These activities include her not disclosing the sexual harassment to her parents, purchasing a sex toy which was to be used to visually satisfy the perpetrators, and renting a hotel room in her name for Sikri to rape her while she was under the influence. The victim said in a statement that “under the influence of alcohol forceful sex [was] a little more bearable.”
The court came to the decision that keeping these men in jail “would be a travesty” and would “deprive them of their education.” The document then goes on to say that “long incarceration at this stage… is likely to result in irreparable damage.”
It seems that the court is insinuating that the damages suffered by the perpetrators are just as severe as the damages suffered by the victim. It also seems as if they are excusing the sexual violence by these men based on reasons that have nothing to do with consent. Smoking, drinking, and being sexually active, as well as the amount of time it takes for the victim to confide in somebody about their situation, should be irrelevant when it comes to sexual assault.
This new judgement signals that this type of behavior is acceptable and could worsen the already dangerous situation for women in India. Hopefully, the petition will raise awareness about this despicable ruling and cause a change.
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