Protest boon for victims

Guwahati, Jan. 4: Emboldened by the countrywide public outcry against rape and molestation in the wake of the Delhi gang rape, victims of sexual assault in Assam are coming out and filing cases with the police.

Public support for the victims is, activists and psychologists believe, helping them and their guardians go public with how they had been brutalised by their assailants.

The developments, though, come with a corollary ' while genuine cases of assault are beginning to come to light, there is, in a grey area, chances of the provisions of the law pertaining to rape being misused, as has been the case sometimes with the dowry and domestic violence acts.

During the past three days alone, three cases of rape have come to light in the state. While a postman had allegedly attempted to rape a woman at Pub-Sarania in Guwahati last Wednesday, a senior BTAD Congress leader has been accused by a married woman of attempted rape in Chirang district on Thursday. The alleged gang rape of a 13-year-old girl by five men at the Hukanpukhuri tea estate in Tinsukia district, too, came to light today.

Several activists here believe that the public support for the Delhi rape victim has encouraged victims here to file complaints against the guilty.

"Rapes and other atrocities against women have always been committed; the only difference now is that the public intolerance for rape has resulted in an unprecedented glare on rape and molestations. Earlier, many victims did not register cases against the guilty, fearing public ostracism," women's rights activist Sumitra Hazarika said. "Now with the entire country demanding capital punishment for rapists, the police, too, are registering cases promptly."

"Usually rape victims are very hesitant to reveal their identity fearing social stigma. But the protest against the Delhi case has created an atmosphere where the victims can now fearlessly demand justice. Public support will also help victims overcome their trauma," psychiatrist Jayanta Das said.

Judicial experience has, however, prompted the legal fraternity to warn of misuse of the legal provisions pertaining to rape in the given scenario. "There definitely exists the danger of the law governing rape being misused. When a case is registered, the police have to take the victim for a medical examination within 72 hours of the alleged incident," Gauhati High Court lawyer Anand Bhuyan said.

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