The dignity is the most valued asset of a human being. Sexual crimes attack and violate the basic dignity of the victim. In a bid to provide support to the victim and the family, the legislators made paying compensation for the loss suffered mandatory.
Monetary compensation cannot undo the harm that has been caused by a sexual predator. The objective of awarding compensation is to provide financial help to the victim and their family. In case of rape, the survivor female is awarded Rs. 3 lakhs. This amount is set to be revised soon. The State governments are liable to pay the compensation to the victims.
Recently, the Supreme Court asked the Bihar government to pay Rs 10 lakh in compensation to a destitute woman who was raped and not allowed an abortion due to delays by the high court and a Patna hospital. This is the first time that a rape victim has been awarded compensation for delays preventing her from getting the pregnancy terminated. The sum of Rs 10 lakh is in addition to Rs 3 lakh given to a woman under a rape victim compensation scheme.
Monetary compensation is still better than other ways in which remedies are accorded to a victim, one of them being getting married to the perpetrator. Sexual crimes have only increased with time. An eight-fold increase has been seen in recorded complaints of sexual crimes according to the data collected by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The rate of conviction although remains meagre.
Courts have ordered for compensation to be paid for sexual crimes under provisions contained in the statutes. Several state governments to have found it convenient to pay sums depending upon the extent of the gravity of the crime, public outrage, and media exposure.
However, monetary compensation is a tricky deal. It can be negatively interpreted to put a price on the victim’s dignity. It is instructive to recall the experience with Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 ( for SC and ST). Tribal and Dalit victims of rape were required to produce a certificate of their tribal/Dalit status for receiving a compensation of Rs 25,000. Gujrat government’s website of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, lays down that for outraging the modesty of a woman, the Government pays a compensation of Rs 50,000, but in case the accused marries the victim, the financial ‘assistance’ of Rs 50,000 is disbursed in the joint names of the couple.
A study conducted by MARG in Uttar Pradesh throws up more questions. The compensation, as and when paid, is often grabbed by the rest of the family and makes the police indifferent and even more reluctant to pursue the cases. In many cases, even though the crime was not proved in the court, the government still sanctioned compensation to the victims. Whether it reached the intended receiver or not, has no records often.
In case of minor victims, the money is grabbed by the family for their own use instead of using it for the rehabilitation of the child. The money spent on litigation is also not much. The purpose of awarding compensation fails because the intended use of the money is never fully made. Rather, people relocate to avoid the stigma attached to sexual crimes.
The sensitivity attached to sexual crimes is never fully acknowledged. The intent never matches the actual execution. Monetary compensation thereby remains an unfulfilled purpose. Of course, it has helped many but there have been downsides of this as well. The legislature and the judiciary do their jobs but the society ruins the cause.
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