On Crime and Conscience

It was in late seventies that my job often required me to visit local Police Station. On one such occasion I sat on a bench not too far away from the Police Sub-Inspector. He was recording statement of a woman. At the end of it she put her thumb impression and then the Sub-Inspector paid her some money. He later informed me that she had just signed a statement as an eye witness to in a rape case!

This shocked me. The Sub-Inspector and I got into a conversation for quite sometime on the issue of rape cases. My ‘knowledge’ of such cases came from the Bollywood films. The facts in the case that the Sub-Inspector handled were very different from what was invariably was shown in the films.

A boy was working with a building contractor. He was in love with his neighbour’s daughter. The boy’s neighbour was also working with the same building contractor but he did not keep good health and occasionally had to take leave of absence. On one such occasion when he had to take a day off, he sent his daughter to work in his place so that the family’s earnings would not suffer. During the lunch hour, the boy and the neighbour’s daughter found a secluded place in the building under construction where they were caught in the act by the watchman. The boy’s neighbour [father of the girl] lodged a complaint of rape. The girl had no alternative but to tow the line.

And the Sub-Inspector did his job by getting a ‘paid’ witness. Every Police Station has some on their regular rolls. The Sub Inspector told me that the girl was a ‘minor’ in the eyes of law and the boy was certain to be convicted.

These thoughts came to my mind because of Shiney Ahuja’s case which prima facie appears to be a clear case of rape.

I kept reading about Shiney Ahuja on the internet. I also picked up a book ‘The Kanga and The Kangaroo Court’ sub-titled ‘Reflections on The Rape Trial of Jacob Zuma’ by Mmatshilo Motsei at a local book shop. Mr. Jacob Zuma is currently the President of South Africa. The trial was held in 2006. He was elected as President after he was acquitted by the Court. This book is an excellent piece of reflections on many issues such as conduct of high officials, issues concerning women particularly rape as well as Zuma’s case. It is hard hitting but yet quite objective, well researched and thought provoking.

Mr. Zuma had sex with a [deceased] friend’s daughter who was of his children’s age. For her he was a fatherly figure. Zuma contended he had done nothing wrong [Shiney also seems to have picked up the same line] as it was consensual sex. [She was not a minor].

Ms Motsei has raised many important questions. She contends that the question is not whether or not you have done anything wrong. The question is also whether you have done something right!

Presuming, for the sake of argument, that it was consensual sex in both the cases, of Zuma and Shiney Ahuja, what would be the answer? Almost everyone will say ‘No, it was not the right thing to do’. Both are married men and they have fathered children out of wedlock too.

And what would you say in the case of the boy who, according to the Sub-Inspector, was sure to be found guilty?

Between ‘total resistance’ and ‘willing consent’ there are many shades of coercion, some direct, some perceived, like the fear of losing your partner if you do not submit to his demand. This broad spectrum coercion will make it impossible to define in precise terms what is perceived by people as rape. So some wrong doers will escape.

Shiney Ahuja may be acquitted by the court, unlikely, but anything can happen. What he must realise is that he can not escape answering these questions to himself. Not coming out clean will only ruin his life which is worse than spending a few years in jail.

Nobody can see HIS stick. It just hurts deeply. It is better to confess in case one goofs up than fight to win a court battle.

Vivek

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