Raped and punished too!

She has just turned 14, and life for Salma (name changed), a resident of Ramachandrapura in Bangalore, could not have been drastically different from any other girl her age. But, she has a three-month-old child, the result of a rape by her father’s employee, at their home during Dasara holidays last year.

Neither did Salma know that she had been violated nor did she think of informing her parents as she had been warned that her family would come to harm if she even uttered a word. Even now, Salma refuses to discuss the traumatic incident.

Her complaints of a stomach ache were diagnosed as appendicitis by no less that three doctors and prescribed tablets. Her illiterate parents never even hazarded a guess that something could be wrong.

It was with a sense of shock that on April 14, when Salma complained of severe stomach pain, they took her  to a doctor and learned about her pregnancy after an ultrasound scan. Then started the ordeal as hospital after hospital refused to admit her fearing a police case. On the way to one such hospital, Salma gave birth in an autorickshaw. Finally, she was admitted to a government hospital after the child was born.

Thankfully, it was summer holidays and the parents did not have to explain to the school about her absence. Once she went back to school, Salma noticed that none of the children talked to her.

“I always used to help my friends in class before. Now they talk to me only if they need something,” Salma says. A regular class topper, Salma loves English and Mathematics and is determined to continue her studies. In fact, that is her only purpose. Ask her anything, she merely nods  and repeats that she wants to study. She is mostly withdrawn and quiet, but her parents say she is very playful when she thinks no one is watching.

Supportive parents

The distraught parents - Syed Kareem and Irshad Begum - are at a loss to explain their ignorance about her pregnancy. They are certain of just one thing: That their daughter will continue her studies.

Which is why they immediately approached a lawyer, A D Ramananda, when Salma was summarily issued a Transfer Certificate by her school under pressure from other members of the community, who demanded that the family withdraw the case against the rapist, 23-year-old Shakeel, and marry off Salma to him. Otherwise, she would have to leave the school and risk their wrath.

Salma’s father, Syed Kareem, defied all odds and moved the High Court, which ordered that the school retract the Transfer Certificate. Now Salma is back at school, but her trauma is not over. She is ostracised by classmates and parents, who are demanding that she must go as she is a “bad influence” on their wards.

Taking affirmative action, the Union Cabinet on Thursday gave its nod to replace term “sexual assault” in place of “rape” in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, to make the laws gender neutral. The age of consent has been raised from 16 years to 18 years in case of sexual assault and the punishment will range from minimum of seven years imprisonment to maximum ten years. A report on increasing intolerance towards women...

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