Days after a Tamil Nadu court granted bail to a rapist so that he could meet his victim for a possible settlement, the Supreme Court attacked the attitude, describing it as ‘a spectacular error’ which is ‘against the dignity of women’.

A Madras High Court judge said a man who raped a teenager in 2002 when she was 15 could leave jail for a mediation session with the victim. Justice D Devdass said that in another case where he had made the same decision, ‘a happy conclusion’ was reached when the rapist “agreed” to marry the victim.

In this case the judge said, the victim who had become pregnant and delivered a daughter as a result of her attack, is “nobody’s wife… an unwanted mother”, suggesting that her best option would be to reach a settlement with her attacker.

On July 1 an apex court bench headed by justice Dipak Mishra said that any compromise promising wedlock between a rape accused and the victim compromises the dignity of the woman.

Holding that courts cannot take a soft approach towards rape, the SC bench addressed the lack of sensitivity on the part of the lower court which had allowed a rapist to go scot-free by accepting an agreement of wedlock.

Allowing the rapist and the victim to marry not only demeans the dignity of women, it sets the rapist free before he has lived through a due punishment or a chance at reform. It also further embeds the culture that is permeating India, that women are “nobody” till they are married, even if it is to a rapist. It further extends the idea that rape is a woman’s fault and the man is simply following his natural urge.

The Supreme Court is right to say that this was a ‘spectacular error’, however, if judges like Devdass are continually allowed to dole out such weak, rather insensitive, sentences to rapists then how do we aim to bring down the ‘rape culture’ tag that India has managed to get over the last few years.