Rape is one of the oldest crimes in the world and the driving force behind it is desire. There was no law against rape in Hindu law and a woman raped had no recourse to any legal remedy and had to accept what had happened.  However with the advent of greater industrialization and development with greater human awareness the crime of rape is now a punishable offense in most societies. Even in Islam: though the law is archaic and requires 4 male witnesses and the raped women's evidence is not taken into account, rape is recognized as a crime. Modern rape law means penetration of a woman without her consent. This is accepted as the definition in almost all countries, and the USA is no exception.

Rape in the USA invariably has invited stiff sentences. Far back in the fifties of the last century, a man called the Red Light Bandit named Caryl Chessman was sent to the electric chair on charges of rape and abduction. Just 2 years back an Indian named Anand John was given 59 years in jail on rape charges even when he was a prominent dress designer.

With such a history the latest verdict in what is known as the Stanford rape case is disturbing. A young man who was a champion swimmer in the college saw a young 23-year-old girl lying unconscious ( passed out) while he was returning home. The dress of the girl was revealing and she was disheveled. Desire and lust took the lead and this young man hovered over the girl and removed her undergarments and began to make an entry into her. He was in the process when 2 passers-by saw him hovering over the inert girl. Seeing the man, the rapist fled but both men pursued him and finally pulled him to earth and pinned him. He was handed over to the police.  Later the girl confessed that she had gone for a sorority in the college and after drinks had passed out and did not remember anything.

The young man was brought to trial and the maximum punishment for this under California law is 14 years jail term. The trial went its due course and the charges were proved. Surprisingly the judge in his judgment, though holding the boy guilty of rape awarded him a sentence of just 6 months in jail. With the parole laws, the boy would be out of jail inside 3 months. The judgment shocked many and a petition to recall the judge has been moved. The judge stated that he was satisfied that 6-month jail term was sufficient as the girl and boy were c drunk and the girl was wearing a revealing dress. He felt that as the boy was a champion swimmer, it was a mitigating circumstance.  Needless to say that this is a bizarre judgment.

The judgment has raised some interesting points. Does it mean that a girl revealingly dressed and raped while drunk is acceptable. Does it also mean that a sportsman who is a champion is to be treated differently as far as rape is concerned? Close on the heels of this case a champion footballer was also let off after he had raped a cheerleader.  These are disturbing cases and one wonders whether the perception of rape is changing in the UnitedStates ?

Legal judgments go in as case laws and can be referred back after years. This judgment of the judge will set a precedent and can be quoted by later judges and famous swimmers and athletes can be let off for rape. What about the poor giirl.? I think a paradigm shift is coming in the USA and rape per se is being looked at differently.  This is sad as the repercussions can go far and deep. I wonder what can be done? In contrast, the rape law was amended in India and for more heinous rapes, the death sentence has been incorporated in teh statute books. Can the USA take a lesson from this?


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