She broke down as she said, “My husband raped me for 12 years and my daughter for a year.” The 34-year-old rape survivor was speaking to The Quint, after taking stock of a recent Karnataka High Court order that said, "a rape is a rape."
On 23 March, Karnataka High Court hit the headlines with a significant ruling on marital rape that said a rape – be it performed by a man (the husband) on the woman (the wife) – is still a rape.
“The court may have triggered a fresh debate on marital rape, but I haven't got justice,” the survivor said, a month after she fought the case against her husband, who had sought to quash the rape charges under section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
'Married When Minor and Suffered Brutal Sexual Assault'
The survivor was seventeen when she got married. “I lost my father when I was two years old. My mother forced me into marriage. I moved from Odisha (my native state) to Delhi in 2004,” she said.
It didn’t take much time for her husband to start treating her as a “sex slave,” she alleged.
“He made me watch porn videos. He sat on my chest and forced his member into my mouth. I would choke and vomit, but he relentlessly continued,” she said, regretting how she endured the pain thinking that assault "constituted marriage.”
“He never let me speak to my mother. I had nowhere to go. He didn’t spare me even during my periods. It hurt each time I had to use the restroom. I stopped drinking water and eating for the fear of experiencing excruciating pain while going to the toilet,” she alleged, wiping her tears.
Her husband, an IT executive, used to shuttle between the US and India. “He was in the US for five months every year. I found some reprieve then,” she said, claiming that she became pregnant soon after marriage, but had to undergo abortion in two months.
Her husband allegedly forced her to have sex while she was pregnant. According to the survivor, her doctor too had advised the couple not to have sex after examining her “weak organs.”
“I did give birth despite all this torture in 2008. It was agonising when he brutally raped me in front of my child,” she wailed. The family moved to Bengaluru, before the birth of their child, because the husband was officially transferred.
Long Road to Get Help and Lodge Complaint
It was in Bengaluru that she found the opportunity to speak to her mother and explain the ordeal. “Being my mother, she wanted to save my marriage. She advised my husband and left,” the survivor said, adding that she was left with no choice but to seek help from elsewhere.
She found a lawyer-friend in the neighbourhood, who put her in touch with advocate AD Ramananda in 2016. Ramananda and his wife decided to help the survivor and brought the mother and daughter home.
“Ramananda stood by me and persuaded me to file a complaint against him (husband) in 2017. It was during this time that I learnt that my husband had raped my daughter for a year,” she sobbed. Her daughter is all of 14 now.
“I want my father hanged,” the daughter said, with steely resolve. “He would put a balloon on his private part and rub that against my private part. It hurt each time he put it in. He would gag my mouth so that I don’t scream. He threatened to kill my mother if I were to complain to her about what he did to me. This went on for a year until my mother and I moved out,” she accused, adding that she found the courage to reveal her ordeal only after her mother filed the complaint.
“I feel disgusted each time I think of it. I get nightmares even now. Please help us get justice,” the daughter said.
Despite having filed the complaint, the survivors said that the police were lethargic every step of the way – right from registering the FIR and conducting medical examinations, to starting the investigation. “I was asked by the court to assist the cops in the investigation, but the cops made me a witness in this case without reason,” complained Ramananda.
Fight Against 'Unfair Exemption' Under Section 375
Meanwhile, the accused was denied bail in the trial court, but was granted bail, on the grounds of “delay in trial,” in the High Court in 2018. Ramananda, the advocate, said that the special court had rejected the child’s plea, filed under Section 33(4) of POCSO Act, with the observation that the mother is “delaying trial by filing unnecessary application.”
“I have been struggling for five years for the commencement of trial. What my husband has done is a heinous crime. The High Court has declined a quashing of the rape charges, as sought by my husband, but has not changed the unfair exemption under section 375,” the survivor said.
Section 375 reads: Sexual intercourse by man with his wife, the wife not being under [18 years of age], is not rape. “Marital rape is also rape. I have seen the things my father has done to my mother. We will fight until death,” the child asserted, as she thumped her fist on the table. The mother, swallowed her own tears, and whispered, “We will not stop here.”
The Husband Denies Charges
When The Quint reached out to the defence lawyers, they issued a statement that read, "The petitioner is innocent on the charges framed against him and the third respondent, who was having illicit relationship with a driver, had lodged a false complaint against the petitioner and his parents."
The statement further read, "The charges against the parents of the petitioner were also discharged by this honorable court in criminal revision petition 423/2018 and the petitioner was in judicial custody for more than one year and seven months. He was granted bail by this honourable court on 29 January 2018."
The petitioner has "prayed to quash the charges framed against" him, the statement read.