Sexual abuse within family deep-seated malady in society: Court

New Delhi: If a woman is not safe in her own house, she is safe nowhere, a Delhi court has observed while slapping a 10-year jail term to a 63-year-old man whose bid to outrage the modesty of his pregnant daughter-in-law abetted her suicide.

The court observed that 'intra­familial sexual abuse' is a deep-seated malady in the social order and a crime which most of the family members tend to hide and this kind of relationship is never consensual.

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau made the observations while awarding 10-year imprisonment to Bharat Singh Rawat, a resident of Sultanpuri, for abetting his 24-year-old daughter-in-law's suicide who had hanged herself on September 3, 2008 after being fed up of his sexual advances towards her.

"There is something seriously wrong with our social set­up. If a woman is not safe in her own house, she is safe nowhere. Instead of being a shield to his young pregnant daughter-in-law in the absence of his son who frequently remained away in a different city or on night duties on account of work exigencies, he rather took advantage of the situation.

"The trick was very simple. Either the deceased submits to his evil designs or else face social disgrace and defamation," the court said. The court said it cannot ignore the harsh realities of sexual abuse of woman not only within the family amongst blood relations but also within her in-laws.

"Intra-familial sexual abuse is a deep seated malady in our social order and a crime which most of the family members tend to conceal," it said, adding that these cases should be treated with more severity as its an offence committed in secrecy within the four walls of the house.

The court said Rawat instigated and enticed the victim to not only end her life but also the life of her fetus and held him guilty of repeatedly outraging the modesty of the woman and thereby abetting her suicide.

The woman was found hanging at her matrimonial house in September 2008 within two years of her marriage and a suicide note was recovered from her before her post mortem.

The court noted that earlier the woman's husband was living away in Mumbai where he was working and later on shifted to Noida where he was on night duties mostly but the victim was staying with her in-laws in Sultanpuri here.

"This harassment and molestation was not a casual feature but was frequent and persistent," it said, adding that Rawat lost no opportunity to molest and sexually abuse the victim by taking advantage of his dominating relationship and her vulnerable position.

During the trial, Rawat claimed that he was falsely implicated in the case and alleged that the victim was having extra-marital affair with someone and he had caught her talking to that man in late night hours. The court, however, rejected his allegation and said a young girl of self-respect and dignity would not falsely accuse her father-in-law and to expose the entire family to shame at the risk of condemnation and ostracisation by the society.

Rejecting the convict's plea for leniency, the judge said his acts were "sickening and unpardonable" and he cannot be spared as he deserved exemplary punishment. "The victim at the time of her death was pregnant and was aware of this fact that by her act she was taking away the life of an unborn child and it is difficult to believe that she would have embraced death under the given circumstances," it said.

"Many a women in our society have silently suffered this kind of sexual exploitation by the husband's family as a matter of right and it is revolting to witness this commoditisation of women as an object of sexual gratification. "The sufferings which the deceased must have undergone must be immense and unimaginable that she chose death rather than to submitting to evil designs of her father-in-law," the court said.

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