What ails compensation plan for rape survivors in India
The subcontinent is not the best place women to live and thrive, and we are reminded of this dubious reputation all too often. Last week, a tribal council in Pakistan’s Punjab province asked a man to rape a 16-year-old girl in front of her family as punishment after her brother was accused of raping the man’s sister. Even as we were struggling to come to terms to with this devastating news, there was another, this time from India: A 14-year-old rape survivor, who gave birth to a child last year after being denied permission to abort her foetus, has got married to her alleged rapist, following intervention by village elders in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district. The accused has been forgiven by the girl’s family because, as her father said: “How long can one fight against the society...it is better that she has gone to his house” He added that he married off his child “ only on the assurance of the village elders and the boy’s family that they will take care of her.” The victim’s comment on her plight is much more terse and heartbreaking: “My parents cannot feed me and my child. Here, we at least get two meals a day”.
It is unfortunate that the traumatised child has to live with the same person who violated her. Unfortunately, the girl also does not qualify for the State’s ‘Victim Compensation Scheme’, which provides financial assistance to victims or their dependents, who have suffered loss or injury due to crime like rape, acid attack and human trafficking, because the case is sub-judice. Obviously the marriage has given the accused a shield and a chance to get off scot-free. Is there any surety that he will stay with the girl if the case is withdrawn since now she is his wife?
On the larger issue of victim compensation, there are several problems: According to the law, the compensation part of the rehabilitation of victims of violence including rape is governed by provision of Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that every state government in co-ordination with the Centre shall prepare a scheme for providing funds for the purpose of compensation to the victim of crime including rape. But that is not happening because the “foremost is the restrictive eligibility criteria. Next is the long and vague procedure for processing of applications and the disbursement of funds.
Another major infirmity is that the word ‘dependent’ has not been defined anywhere in the code or in the VCSs, thus creating ambiguity within the system”. These roadblocks need to be removed without delay and there has to be a mechanism through which rape/acid survivors can get help to take care of themselves even when a case is going on. This is important not just to ensure that the victim gets support to tide over the crisis till further help comes in, but also can help to keep unconstitutional bodies such as the village elders (the group was not the panchayat) in Bareilly from calling the shots.