On marrying your rapist in the name of law

What is worse – being sentenced to twelve years in prison because you were the victim of a rape, or being “pardoned” by your country’s  President on the condition that you marry your rapist, thus entering a lifelong hell?

Gulnaz’s story is horrific at multiple levels.  A system which charges rape victims with adultery is awful enough,  while jailing people for adultery  as if it were a capital crime is even more horrible.  But what really are you saying when you proclaim that said adultery can be forgiven if only you marry the guy who committed a violent crime against you?

Marrying your rapist is not a new theme, or even an Islamic theme.  I have seen this even in Hindi/ Tamil/ Telugu movies – the 1990 movie Dil (starring Aamir Khan and Madhuri Dixit) is one example I remember, and I am sure there are many others. (Readers, can you think of more examples ?)

But how does rape become A-okay if the victim marries the rapist?  The only logic I can think of is that somehow the woman’s ‘crime’- adultery/ losing her virginity is seen as worse than the man’s violent crime.  Never mind that attaching a label of  adultery implies the woman had some choice in the matter.  The people who can call a rape as adultery are no doubt,  implicitly, also blaming the woman for letting herself be raped.  Her clothes/ speech/ behavior will all be scrutinized for being “provocative”.  Of course, if you are in Afghanistan, not wearing a burqa would be deemed as dressing provocatively.

pic courtesy Reuters
pic courtesy Reuters

pic courtesy Reuters

No one would question that marrying your rapist is punishment.  To start with,  a man who is violent and  has so little respect for women is not the sort one would choose to marry, and to add to that, there would be the resentment against the woman for daring to call him out for rape.  In Gulnaz’s case, the rapist had been imprisoned too, which would make it even worse.  There is the  psychological damage the woman would suffer by reliving the rape every time she sees her husband, and the very real chance of physical abuse by her husband.

Why would you subject the victim to such cruel punishment?  This is only logical if you are, in fact, punishing the woman  for letting herself be raped by getting her married to her rapist, so she does not provoke some other hapless man into raping her.  You also choose to believe that the rapist will somehow change his ways if only he gets married to his victim. Or you can tell society that since the rape victim herself has chosen to forgive her attacker, we should also follow suit and ignore the fact that a crime had been committed.

And what if the rapist is already married (as in Gulnaz’s case – the rapist is her cousin’s husband).   Even if the religion/ State allows bigamy, does the rapist’s wife have no say in the matter?  What if bigamy is not allowed – should the rapist divorce his wife to marry his victim?

Rape is a capital crime and should be treated as such.  No action of the victim can be a mitigating factor, and no pardon by the victim can erase the fact that the rapist committed a crime  and needs to be punished.

What are the consequences of having laws like this? Rape victims would be very reluctant to report a rape, for who wants to be imprisoned, or have to relive the rape every single day by marrying your rapist?

What message does it send to men?  That if your advances are spurned by a woman, all you have to do is rape her and then society itself will ensure that she is married to you.

Nice way to discourage the incidence of rapes.


8 thoughts on “On marrying your rapist in the name of law

  1. Hi Lekhni,
    There was a movie with Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla which was based on the “rape-victim ‘reforming’ the rapist after marrying him” theme.
    Ridiculous. Dangerous.

      • I have seen this movie when I was much younger. And I remember being confused by it. Apparently based on a Tamil movie by Parthiban who also stars in it (shames me to admit it!!)

  2. Gulnaz is making the best of the bad cards dealt to her. Sure enough, if she lived in a ‘free society’, her attacker would be punished, not her. She must have felt that this was her best bet to get out of the prison. Note the condition that she stipulated of having her brother marry the attacker’s sister. She is not immune to the sense of tribal justice that would have dictated the course of restitution in earlier times. That’s her insurance against further mistreatment, at least till she manages to get out and maybe even (with help from friends), away.

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