How True Is The “Menace” Of False Rape Cases In India?
There has been a lot of noise around women filing fake rape cases in India in the past few years. It was in 2013, that the law saw many amendments and newer committees were set up to prevent rape and to create better awareness around sexual crimes in the country. Earlier than that, there was a serious lack of reportage on rape cases in the country, particularly before the December, 2012 Nirbhaya rape case. And as the total number of cases started increasing in the National Crime Record Bureau reports, conversations around women filing false rape cases also picked up.
WHAT DOES THE STATISTICS TELL?
A Delhi Commission of Women report shows that 53.2% of the rape cases filed between April 2013 and July 2014 in the capital were found ‘false’. However, this data is not at all telling of the reality as DCW collated this report on basis of all the rape cases that were dropped before reaching court without knowing the reason. Another report from the Jaipur police says that in 2016, it saw an ‘alarming rise’ in the number of false rape cases. Jaipur Police recorded 330 rape cases and of the 276 cases solved, 43% turned out to be fake. Police told the media that women filed these cases to extort money or implicate the accused.
In a recent case, a woman filed a rape complaint against a cab driver and his two associates. The police asked the woman to undergo medical test, but she refused and after a 36-hour-long probe, they found that the woman had made up the story as she herself confessed it in front of them. So, now they have filed a cancellation report against the false rape cases.
FAKE RAPE CASES IN COURTS
There are also cases where false rape cases are a mode to extort money by settling cases the outside court and then there are the infamous “breach of promise to marry” cases which also come under rape cases. Advocate Vinay Sharma who defends men accused of “fake” rape cases, he told SheThePeople.TV that according to him 30-40% cases of rape filed in the current times are false. “The most number of cases I have handled are those where girl and boy go into a consensual relationship but then the boy fails to keep the promise of marriage and so the girl files a complaint against him under Section 376,” he said.
Another lawyer Tanveer Ahmed Mir, who is the lead defence counsel in Aarushi Talwar murder case, also had similar views as Sharma. He said that Fast Track courts in Delhi constantly deal with complaints of fake rape cases. “In my experience in Delhi, FTC courts generally have sexual assault cases which deal with Section 376. But those cases result in 99% acquittals because of fabrication in almost all cases that come to courts. Disgruntled women file these cases out of broken relationships. Out of 10 cases heard in an FTC every day merely two are of genuine rape,” he had earlier told us.
DIFFICULTY IN CONDUCTING PROBE
After the 2013 amendment in rape laws, a woman now has the authority to decline to go through a medical test in rape cases. Sharma builds on this, “The evidence of rape only remains for 24 hours and if the police also do not take appropriate measure in conducting a medical procedure then also cases of rape fail to conclude. There are also several cases where women file complaints after years of the actual rape happening and since the number kept increasing, it was only recently that the Supreme Court and High Court stopped giving order in such cases.”
- The statistics presented mostly includes unfinished rape cases which haven’t reached the court under the category of false rape cases.
- Fast Track Courts deal with cases under Section 376 which in eight cases out of 10 results in acquittals.
- False rape cases often include cases of breach of promise of marriage.
- State machinery struggling with efficiency in probing rape cases.
- Women feel raped if they don’t marry the man they had sexual relationships with.
CONSENSUAL SEX CANNOT BE RAPE
Mumbai-based lawyer Abha Sharma says, “In today’s permissive society, the courts have actually struck down cases after saying that when an adult woman establishes a physical relationship then it should not be treated as rape. The number of such cases has gone up because of the society’s permissiveness and women wanting to explore sexual relationships. Today as punishment for rape we talk about death penalty, lifetime imprisonment, etc. so law-makers must amend the provision under Section 376 which criminalizes anybody establishing a physical relationship under the false promise of marriage.”
While there are several voices in this narrative of false rape cases that speak about the intensity of it, there is also a major patriarchal agenda as the basis of these false rape cases. Many times, the legal system gets into the convoluted discourse of what is rape? Is it sex by force, or sex without mutual consent? And we are still trying to figure what unequivocal consent means.
THE TRUTH BEHIND REGISTERED RAPE CASES
However, journalist and researcher Rukmini Shrinivasan in 2013 analysed the pattern of rape cases in Delhi’s district courts. In her study, she examined 460 cases that went through a thorough trial in court. Out of these, 109 cases were “promise of marriage”. Only 12 cases resulted in convictions which showed outright deception, for example, the man was married to another woman or had a fake marriage with the victim. The report also found that in more than one-third of the total number of cases were those of young people who engaged in consensual sex outside marriage and then their parents found about it so they or their parents used the criminal justice system to end their relationship.
Talking about women filing these false rape cases, Chaitali, Project Officer of Jagori says that by themselves, women aren’t so much aware to file these charges. “Ultimately, it is the police or the lawyers or the relatives who refer her to file the complaint under such charges in cases of breach of marriage promise incidents. Even today our patriarchal structure in the society feeds women that if they get into a sexual relationship with one man then they have to marry that same man or they will lose their respect and dignity,” she said.
PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY GUIDING WOMEN’S SEXUAL AUTONOMY
Chaitali also said that this case is actually a social issue where the society constantly tells women that their bodies belong to only one man. “So, when men break these relationships, women feel raped because they entered into a sexual act with that man. In such cases, women want to marry the same man without realizing that it would become a case of forcible marriage. This shows how stressed women feel because they commit to somebody and have sexual relationships out of wedlock.”
“Ultimately, it is the police or the lawyers or the relatives who refer her to file the complaint under such charges in cases of breach of marriage promise incidents. Even today our patriarchal structure in the society feeds women that if they get into a sexual relationship with one man then they have to marry that same man or they will lose their respect and dignity,”
WHY RAPE CASES DON’T COMPLETE TRIAL?
Also, there are many cases that don’t conclude and women have to leave these cases because of the lack of inaccessibility of resources or evidence. One of the key reasons why cases of rape don’t reach convictions or proper trials hence landing in the category of false rape cases is the fact that women don’t know how to confront police officials and the courts. “We have seen many cases where women feel threatened and lack of composure during trials unable to state their point thereby proving that they are lying. Cases of powerful offenders fabricating the case, bribing the state machinery also result in non-completion of rape cases in the court,” Chaitali stated.
While there is a façade of the growing number of false rape cases in the media, it is actually an amalgamation of a lot of factors that leads to, in many cases, even real rape cases enter into the fake rape case category. And it is not to deny the fact that there could be a small percentage where women have lied and extorted money out of men in cases of rape, but there is no clear statistic available on that.