“In rural areas, women often say they were misbehaved with and don’t use the term rape”

A girl living in Sitapur district in Uttar Pradesh was raped when she was 19. It has been two years since the incidence. Now she feels she will not get justice. The police for long said they can’t do much against the accused for ‘misbehviour’ because the girl did not use the word rape in the FIR

Neetu Singh
| Updated: February 24th, 2020


Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh

For the first time in three years, someone had come to see her at her home.

The lanky 21-year-old woman, clad in a light pink saree, was looking at the reporter with great hope. She thought that finally some officer had come to see her. Three years ago, she had informed the police that on August 14, 2017, one of the neighbours had “acted wrongly” with her while she went out to relieve herself out in the open. But the accused has not been arrested so far.

“You please read yourself what is written there. I had told at the police station that the accused had acted wrongly with me, but everyone says the section for misbehaving has been applied instead in the case,” she said. Showing a copy of the FIR, the resident of a village about 40 kms away from the district headquarters in Pisawan block said, “He is roaming about like before. Neither was he arrested nor was anything done against him.”

This woman’s story gets repeated across the country on a daily basis — out of modesty or due to lack of awareness, many rape survivors are unable to report the crime in clearer terms due to which the accused benefit as lighter charges are registered against them.

In this case, the girl is a simple village girl who never got to go to school and was married off at an early age of 12. She is now a mother of two daughters and a son.

She was 19 when she was raped. Her FIR shows IPC Section 354 for assault, Section 506 for criminal intimidation, which would result in imprisonment of 2-7 years and a monetary fine if proven guilty.

She was 19 when she was raped. She is now a mother of two daughters and a son

“What do I do, where do I go, and whom do I tell? There is no one who will listen. I feel like ending my life, but then my daughters’ faces spring before me. I talk in a hushed voice in front of my kids so that they may not be adversely affected,” she said, looking through sunken eyes as she spoke in a troubled voice.

When contacted, the region’s senior police officer, the Maholi police station in- charge, Rajendra Sharma, looked at his old register and said: “While lodging the FIR, the girl said it was a case of misbehaving, so the same was written down. Later, when she spoke about rape in front of the magistrate, Section 376 was added and a charge sheet has been filed accordingly. The case is in court.”

When he was asked why the FIR lodged was for misbehaving despite the girl saying it was rape, he said: “In rural areas, out of modesty, women say they were misbehaved with and don’t use the term rape. We write down only what they tell us. Later on, when people them advise them, they testify rape and we advance the charges. The charges put forth during the FIR did not call for the accused to be jailed and so the accused wasn’t arrested.”

Uttar Pradesh reports the highest incidents of acts of violence or rape against woman in the country — there is a case reported every four hours. As per the 2017 National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report, 3.59 lakh incidents of crime against women in India out which 56,011 took place in Uttar Pradesh.

“Often, the survivor, instead of directly using the word ‘rape’, says that someone had done ‘galat kaam’ (wrongly acted) with her or misbehaved with her,” said advocate Renu Misra, a patron of NGO AALI, which provides free legal aid to women. “Knowingly or otherwise, policemen register a case of misbehaviour or assault, which calls for lighter penalties, and the accused get released soon on bail. When the girl mentions rape in her testimony, the charges are advanced in the charge sheet.”

She added: “After the charges are advanced, the accused is rearrested and has to reapply for bail, which is contingent upon the accused refraining from intimidating the girl and tampering with evidence and from leaving the station.”

The 21-year-old girl living in Sitapur and many other villagers like her are, however, ignorant of various legal provisions or, for that matter, the legal system. She is also unaware about the punishment extended to a rapist. What she knows is that she has been raped and her accused should be jailed and punished.

Many rape survivors are unable to report the crime in clearer terms due to which the accused benefit as lighter charges are registered against them

The girl’s family believes poverty and the absence of influence from those in authority are the main reasons for the delay in justice. Her father-in-law said, “Many times, we have been to the Maholi police station, but no one answers us properly about the progress in the case. Three years have passed since the incident, but there hasn’t been a hearing, so we, too, have fallen silent.”

He alleged the accused is related to the pradhan due to which the pradhan has removed his and his son’s name from the ration card. “Open drains flow around our house, but the pradhan looks the other way. He did not even provide us with a toilet. He asks us to compromise. We do not want to, so he is avenging this.”

After the traumatic ordeal of rape, the survivors are not even extended counselling in rural areas to help them recover from such incidents.

Renu Misra of NGO AALI said: “Registration of FIR for a crime is a fundamental right. Most of the time, this does not happen. There is a provision of counselling, but due to lack of information, it is not availed of. So, it is necessary for girls to be educated and their education is incomplete till the time they do not become legally informed. The school curriculum must include basic legal education so that they may be aware of their rights.”

Meanwhile, the survivor’s family is ignorant about the provisions of the Sections imposed against the accused. “Everyone says I was wrong. The neighbours ask me why he (the accused), an aged fellow, would do it? Although I am a victim of the wrongdoing, it is I who is made to feel ashamed of it,” rued the survivor.

“She has always been a simple girl who doesn’t speak much and even hesitates to speak up,” said the girl’s mother-in-law. “We are poor, so we cannot put aside our work to frequent the police station. We do not even know whether there is any development in our case.”

At the threshold of the girl’s house, the drains overflowed with sludge. In a corner by an earthen stove, a few straw mattresses were spread on which small children were jumping up and down. The room half filled with straw was where we spoke to ensure her daughters did not hear the conversation.

“Even my little granddaughters are not allowed outside unaccompanied. Even while they are away at school, I worry for them. How long will this living in fear go on?” the mother-in-law said. “The accused is a cousin of the gram pradhan, he needn’t be bothered by anything.”

As per the 2017 report of NCRB, in 93.1% of registered rape cases, the offender was known to the victims and had watched the victims’ each and every move.

“When I see him roaming about freely, it enrages me,” the girl said. “I feel as if he teases me: ‘Look, I have done everything to you, while you couldn’t do anything about it’.”