Lawyer Mahima Sareen On How The System Fails Rape Survivors During Rehabilitation Phase
- IWB Post
- February 18, 2019
Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India, and the numbers don’t seem to be going down anytime soon. With such atrocities happening around us every day, the need for a strong, able system to not only nab the culprit but also provide aid and support to the survivor is paramount.
When the case of a 19-year-old Delhi rape survivor taking care of her child came to light, what everyone wants to know was how the system helps such women. In a conversation with Mahima Sareen, Associate at Archeus Law, we discussed the stigma and struggles survivors have to go through and how rehabilitation can help them. Here are a few insightful excerpts from the conversation.
So, let’s start with what “rape survivor rehabilitation” means.
In theory, once the victim files a report, and the medical issues have been taken care of, just arresting the culprit doesn’t help the one on whom the pain has been inflicted, to get them out of the trauma they go through. Once it has happened, it is very difficult for the victim to start her life, which is when the whole process of rape rehabilitation comes into play. It may come from the government or some private institution, compensation to the family, counseling, etc.
The compensation given is based on many criteria like the extent of the injury, the trauma that the victim went through, pregnancy, etc.
There are many instances when the rape victim fails to get such support. How is the system failing them?
After such an incident happens with an individual, the authorities sometimes take too much time to begin proceedings. And there is also no sensitivity exhibited by the police when handling such cases. I am not stereotyping the entire police department, but this happens, and things can’t be balanced unless there is some empathy on their part.
Also, the court proceedings take so much time, that by the time it reaches a conclusion, the victim has already gone through years and years of trauma. This makes them lose faith in the system. And the worst thing that sometimes happens is that when the victim registers her complaint, her statement is not taken in time nor is her medical examination done. This makes them lose evidence except in cases of definite pregnancy.
What challenges do they face when they fight the case in court? As a lawyer, what difficulties did you go through?
There is so little evidence to prove that the accused is guilty. Usually, either the evidence wasn’t recorded on time or people shy away from being witnesses as they don’t want to be caught up in a police case. They are afraid that they would be called again and again and that’s not something they want. And the fact that many times the family itself is afraid to come up for the fear that the entire world would find out their kid’s identity and humiliate them.
What are the provisions in the law for cases where the victim is a minor? Like the case where a 10-year-old in Chandigarh had been raped.
Like in the case you mentioned, she only found out that she was pregnant when she was past five months. If the parents hadn’t been afraid of legal proceedings, the medical examination would have taken place as soon as the incident happened and all this could have been avoided. It is the police authorities’ duty to send the girl to a medical practitioner, no matter if she is a minor or not.
What happens is, in terms of compensation, if the rape victim is a minor, she gets more compensation opposed to that of a major victim. And it is mandatory.
So what should be done to curb the existing problems in the system?
What is required right now is proper implementation and execution of the laws. To start with, everyone should be educated about the laws, educating the police that they should have more sensitivity so that they are more approachable. The statement of the victim to be recorded and the medical examination should happen as soon as the matter is reported. No delays should be there.
First published on Dec 16, 2017.