Menopausal women and rape: What Delhi High Court really said

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New Delhi, Nov 4: A judgement by Delhi High Court created a new controversy in the country and a newspaper report ignited it. The high court, which acquitted an accused in a rape and murder case, faced criticism.

The first report published in DNA asked, "Can forced sex with a 65-year-old woman, who has attained menopause, be punishable under law?" The report interpreted the judgement like this -- 'Here the judges were trying to make a distinction between women who have attained menopause (past the age of fertility) and those who haven't. If a woman has attained menopause, she cannot be termed a victim of rape.'

However, this is not the judgement actually said. Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta, in their judgement, said, "As regards the offence punishable under Section 376 IPC, the deceased was aged around 65-70 years, thus the age of menopause. We find force in the contention of the learned counsel for the appellant that even if the sexual intercourse was forceful it was not forcible." [Read the full judgement of the high court]

While the news report criticised the use of the word "menopause" in the judgement, readers received a different message. However, now it has been clarified that the high court did not say that menopausal women can't be raped.

Meanwhile, a Firstpost report raised question about the judgement while highlighting another part of it. The two judges came to a conclusion saying, "The forceful penetration is evident from the injuries on the vaginal orifices. However, besides the injuries on the vagina there is no other injury mark on the body of the deceased or on the appellant to show that there was any protest by the deceased."

The Firstpost report claimed, "While social media is outraging over the court's mention of the victim being past menopause, it should be noted that it is the bit about 'no-resistance' which is actually questionable."

"In fact, it does sound uncannily a bit like the argument extensively used against all rape victims. It's equivalent to saying, 'She didn't protest since there are no visible injuries on other parts of the body. Therefore, she was not raped'," the report added.

While it was wrong for people to jump into a conclusion that the judgement was wrong , one has to say that the judgement is indeed rare and somewhat unusual.

What's the rape and murder case:

65-year-old Sharda was found dead in a house at Majnu Ka Tila in Delhi on Dec 31, 2010. Later 45-year-old Achey Lal was also found inside the same room in intoxicated condition. Police arrested Achey Lal.

He was convicted by a lower court to 10 years Rigorous Imprisonment (RI). However, the high court acquitted him claiming, " has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt that the appellant committed sexual intercourse with the deceased contrary to her wishes or her consent. Consequently the appellant is also acquitted of the charges under Section 376 IPC."

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