A man jailed for raping a widow wants to make amends, and has offered to take the victim — a mother of four children — for his wife.
Such an offer is hard to resist in traditional Jharkhand, where the stigma of rape can haunt a woman for the rest of her life. Still, it took 38-year-old Sunita (name changed) over six months to decide on marrying the accused, Manish Kumar Soni (40). The reason: He happens to be her son-in-law’s elder brother.
The person responsible for changing Sunita’s mind was no other than her own daughter, the rapist’s sister-in-law. The widow has now filed an appeal, seeking legal permission to marry her rapist in jail, before Dhanbad chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Rajiv Ranjan.
“I know that marrying the elder brother of one’s son-in-law is unheard of, but I am forced to do it for the sake of my three children. It’s a question of survival,” Sunita told HT on the court premises on Wednesday.
The widow said her family was being ostracised by other villagers since the rape and, at one point, she even contemplated committing suicide. “My children have to hide their faces every time they venture outside. They are called children of a rape victim. Marrying him is the only option I have,” she added.
Sunita said her daughter helped her through the difficult period that followed the sexual assault. “I have no objection in accepting my mother as my sister-in-law,” the daughter told HT. “She has the right to live with dignity, like all of us.”
After hearing her plea, the CJM allowed the woman to marry Soni. He also directed the Dhanbad jail superintendent to allow the marriage registrar to enter the prison, so Sunita and her rapist could tie the knot in accordance with the law.
In the FIR, Sunita had accused Soni of kidnapping her while she was out for a morning walk on July 18, 2016. When the widow resisted, he threatened to attack her with acid and kill her children.
The accused then drove her all the way to Varanasi, followed by the Vaishno Devi shrine, where he applied vermillion on her head. He raped her repeatedly during the journey.
Soni, a resident of Bankmore, has been lodged at the Dhanbad divisional jail since December 2.