The dire straits of the 23-year-old woman from Surat, who was k idnapped, gang-raped at gunpoint by seven men and eventually got pregnant, does not seem to be ebbing away as she is now being asked to undergo a shuddhi (purification) test by the local community court.
After her petition was turned down by the Gujarat High Court because of the advanced stage of her pregnancy, she is now on the verge of delivering the baby.
She is currently staying in a two-room house in Devaliya village, Ranpur Taluka of Gujarat, with her husband and two children. Her in-laws refuse to take her back and her husband has left his parents to be with her.
Her own parents are worried that the baby she is soon going to give birth to will affect the rest of the family. They are also worried about how the victim's siblings will be affected by the child that she will be delivering.
"I have two other children — both unmarried. If she delivers the baby and keeps it then no one will marry them. My 14-year-old son will get cast out. The only way out is that she will have to undergo the chokha thavani viddhi (purification ritual) and whatever the community decides will be final," the victim's mother told the BBC .
The purification test
This ritual of the purification test is conducted only on women to test infidelity and rape. It is limited only to the villages of Gujarat's Devipujak community, to which the victim belongs.
A purification ritual is conducted by a tantric, a priest who practices black magic and believes in supernatural powers.
During the ritual, the girl is asked several questions by the tantric and then he checks if she is telling the truth by taking a pinch of barley seeds from a bag and asking her to say whether the number of seeds in his hand are even-numbered or odd.
If the girl gets the answer wrong then the tantric assumes her answers have been lies.She then has to repeat the process with a 10 kg stone on her head. She has to keep the stone on her head until the tantric is satisfied that she is speaking the truth.
According to a villager, sometimes it takes months to purify as people lie initially but 'Goddess knows it all and finally they have to speak the truth'.
If she passes, then no one can point fingers or banish the woman or her family. But if she fails the test then she will be completely ostracized from the society.
The fate of the victim is completely in the hands of the people of the community, who will decide whether she will stay in the village or not.
The victim will be facing a unlawful process which might ruin the rest of her life. Her abortion petition might have been rejected by the court on grounds of fundamental rights to life, but shouldn't the local govt authorities intervene in this matter ?
While the victim goes through her trial-by-error, the culprits remain absconding, which does not seem to be a matter of concern for the community members at all.
And there are certain questions which will always remain unanswered.
Why is the test conducted only on women? Why are a bunch of people allowed to decide the fate of someone's life through an unlawful and absurd method?