Delhi High Court said girls are misled to believe they are entering into a marital union
Voicing concern over girls being subjected to sexual assault on the pretext of marriage, the Delhi High Court said such incidents compromise the very notion of empowerment of women, and dismissed an appeal filed by a man against his conviction and 10-year sentence for kidnapping and rape.
The high court said impressionable minds of underage survivors are profoundly impacted as they lack the capacity to make informed decisions at the tender age of 12 or 14. These girls, it said, are misled by making them believe that they are entering into a marital union.
The sexual assault is often projected by the assaulter as marital physical union to coax the girls to accept it without resistance, it said.
“Offences like the one before this court have profound social implications. In cases such as these, one witnesses the rising incidents of kidnapping of minor girls who are subjected to sexual assault under the guise of performance of marriage,” Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma said in a judgment passed on November 3 and made available to the public on November 30.
The court made the observations while dismissing the appeal by the accused against his conviction and sentencing for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl on the pretext of marriage despite being already married and having two children.
“The consequences of such acts extend beyond the individual victims; they cause ripples through society by pulling these girls away from their peer groups, studies and their lawful guardianship. They are disengaged from their studies and are thus denied the opportunity to pursue the careers they might have otherwise chosen in case they would have continued with their studies.
“Thus, on the one hand, such incidents deprive females of the career opportunity and standing on their own feet and be educated, on the other, the psychological trauma continues for a lifetime,” the court said.
The girl in her statement said that she was in Class 8 when the man would follow her. They developed a friendship. He took her out of Delhi and established physical relations against her will on the pretext that they would get married.
She said they got married in Bihar and started living in Delhi with fake identities. She said her life was ruined because of what happened and she had to leave her studies.
The high court said the disturbing fact of persuading the minor to leave her studies, to elope, and get married to him while the accused was already married and had two children together with the fact that the teen was of impressionable age was deeply disturbing.
The high court said when a girl is forced to abandon her education due to such incidents, it causes a profound setback not only to an individual but to the society as a whole.
“In discussions surrounding the empowerment of women, education is rightly recognised as a fundamental pillar. However, when such incidents occur, that force a girl to abandon her studies, the very notion of empowerment is compromised and society at large bears the consequences,” it said.
The high court said in the grand tapestry of societal progress, education acts as a thread that weaves together the fabric of empowerment and when this thread is frayed due to cases that force girls to abandon their studies, the very foundation of societal advancement is compromised.
“Creating a safe and supportive environment for girls to pursue their education is a collective responsibility that extends beyond individual incidents, criminal cases and victims,” it said.
The court rejected the man's argument that he could not have known the girl's age since she did not have her Aadhaar card with her.
“This argument in itself is not only unconvincing but also absurd and merits outright rejection since it will be travesty of justice in case the courts will start giving weightage to an argument that a person who is kidnapping and sexually assaulting a minor was not aware of the age of the victim since she was not carrying her Aadhaar card with her.
“Accepting this argument would amount to holding that it was the duty of the girl kidnapped and sexually assaulted to have carried her Aadhaar card for the convenience of the accused,” the court said.
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