Relationship or rape?
We need a framework for consensual relationships which, for whatever reason, break down and the woman cries ‘rape’
At the very outset, this newspaper unequivocally states that violence against women, including sexual abuse and assault, is a major problem in India, where patriarchal forces still reign. Laws that protect women against such assault have been written and amended over the years, particularly after some high-profile cases. Of course, one has to recognise that the implementation of the law and the closure rate of rape cases remain abysmally small. However, it is becoming apparent that there is a growing number of cases where consensual relationships, for whatever reason, break down and the female partner cries ‘rape’. There is also a large number of cases of women who claim they have been ‘raped’ because their partners promised to marry them.
In the latter case, one could argue that consent acquired through lies is not consent. And while one could say that the women were stupid for believing the men who bedded them, sometimes all of us fall for lies and promises that cannot be kept. And many of the women who fall for these lies may come from less educated and less privileged classes. So crying ‘rape’ is possibly the only option they have because they could be left high and dry, possibly even pregnant, by the man who scoots away and marries someone else. And the problem with a patriarchal society, and make no mistakes, we are one, is what happens to the poor girl afterwards. This is why the Supreme Court ruled in April that consent for sex obtained under the false promise of marriage is rape. The only issue, it is one person’s word against another, because unlike a Memorandum of Understanding, there is no paperwork involved in getting that consent. But the first issue is coming into more prominence due to some rather high-profile cases in Bollywood. And this is troubling because relationships go sour all the time and claiming rape afterwards is unfair. Not only will it be unfair to the accused, falsely indicted and often crucified by the media, it is also unfair to the women who are actual victims of sexual crime and assault and who, too, would be accused of a cry-wolf syndrome. It is important for men to realise that they cannot have it all their own way anymore; consent cannot be forced or coerced. It is becoming more and more important for them to retain correspondence, almost always in digital form nowadays, to prove their cases.