Women’s Rights activists decry Goa court comments

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In a court order published on Tuesday, the Goa District and Sessions Court states the victim’s behaviour in the Tarun Tejpal case was not normal for a sexually assaulted person.

Bangalore: The court order that was published on Tuesday, that acquitted Tarun Tejpal, former editor-in-chief of Tehelka, on charges of sexual assault against his colleague in 2013, has been criticised by women’s rights activists.

The district and sessions judge Kshama Joshi in her 527-page judgement states that the complainant “did not show any kind of normative behaviour,” that a sexual assault victim might show.

“The court verdict says that she is absolutely cheerful and has a smile on her face and does not look disturbed. So what it means, is that a rape victim should have a defined behaviour? The verdict has also explained the behaviour that a woman should have, she should look terrified, disturbed, reserved or traumatised. Your reaction after a sexual assault is not something you can quantify; it depends from person to person,” said Adv. Zeenat Malick who has worked as a Delhi Commission For Woman(DCW) lawyer in the rape cell and now has her own practice dealing with criminal cases.

Social media platforms have also sharply reacted to the verdict.

“I feel that it’s not the right judgment, but they have said that there is not enough proof, however, this would mean you are discounting what the woman has said. A woman usually talks about sexual assault when it’s the last straw,” said Dr Jyotsana Chatterjee, retired director of the Joint Women’s Programme at National Commission of Woman(NCW).

The Mathura rape case 1979, is a judgment that Adv. Malick compared with this verdict, “Two cops raped a tribal woman in a police station in Maharashtra, the trial court acquitted the perpetrators, saying there were no injuries, no voices heard, meaning there was no resistance. Even members of her family were standing outside but because they did not hear anything the court termed it as consensual sexual intercourse, Hence based on the reaction of a victim to sexual assault, the court made its judgment in Mathura’s case. We can see a similar inference being made in the Tarun Tejpal case because of the post-assault behaviour. After being convicted by the Nagpur High Court Bench, the accused appealed to the Supreme Court, where they were acquitted on similar grounds. This led to many protests and reforms, but it would seem the mindset of the courts has not changed in so many years,” she said.

The Goa government has moved the Bombay High Court, challenging the acquittal of Tarun Tejpal.


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