Compromise in Rape Trials: The Ugly Realities of a Casteist System
Compromise in rape case is an ugly social reality of rape cases in India. Compromise is a phenomenon where the survivors of rape and their families are pressurised by the perpetrator’s side to settle the case outside the judicial system. The settlement could be a monetary compensation provided in lieu of dropping a case. The pressure to settle, especially if the survivor and their family belong to a lower caste community, is coercive and can be followed by violence. The Supreme Court of India has condemned the practice of compromise and stated that it has no bearing on the punishment. Despite this, the phenomenon of compromise continues to be a reality for caste based sexual violence in India.
Intersectionality of Caste and Gender in Rapes in India
The NCRB data for crime in India 2019 was released this September. It numerically states, what every woman intuitively knows, crimes against women are rising. The data also tells that even though rape cases are being filed and heard in court cases, the numbers of conviction remain staggeringly low. The number of perpetrators that have been convicted in the year of 2019 are just 4640 as compared to nearly 45,000 cases that have been filed all across the country. Compromise outside of court plays a major role in high rates of acquittal in rape cases.
Sexual crimes on Dalit women by upper caste men, as we are seeing in the Hathras rape case, are carried out to subddue and dehumanise lower caste women. On the Online Safety Summit, Dalit academic Cynthia Stephen, notes that entire society and governance are “imbued with this attitude that women are subordinate beigs and Dalits are non-people. If it is a Dalit woman, it is double jeopardy for her. That is why we see that even though there are women who are being raped across the country, the majority of the rapes, particularly the rapes that do not come to conviction are against Dalit women and girls”.
Stephen contextualises the reality of acquittal and conviction in rape trials and the crucial role caste plays. She further speaks about the aspect of compromise in the context of caste based violence, especially when the victim is Dalit girl or woman. “There is a lot of pressure on the families for compromise. Compromise what? Compromise on the rule of law? Compromise on your daughter’s life, on your family’s future or on life itself?”
Why It Matters?
In one of the first books written on the subject of compromise in rape cases is called Public Secrets of Law: Rape Trails in India by Pratiksha Baxi documents real case studies on how aspects of caste, gender and, power play out in rape trials. Compromise in rape trials are an antithesis of justice. The patriarchal nature of compromise ensures that the social inequalities perpetuated by caste continues to exist. It allows upper caste men who violate bodies of Dalit women and get away with little or no repercussion. Rape trials are constantly pervaded by social inequalities and this disrupts the process of law and ultimately, justice.