Haunted by stigma, Kerala rape victim regrets going public

Raoe

A little more than a decade back, Kerala was shocked by the gruesome rape of a destitute woman by an assistant in a government hospital where she was being treated for 60 per cent burns.

Now, even as the Centre presses to improve the safety of women around the country in the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape, the Kerala victim regrets going public about the assault on her because the stigma of the crime has caused even close relatives to shun her.

The woman was 20 years old when she was raped in July 2002. The incident took place in the government medical college in Kozhikode where she was being treated for her burns after she set herself on fire following a domestic dispute with her older sister.

Three days after she was admitted with severe burns on the front of her body, a hospital attendant offered to bathe her for Rs 100. The attendant, Subramanian, had been washing male and female patients as the hospital did not have enough nursing assistants.

According to the victim's statement to a magistrate, Subramanian first molested her on the wheel-chair on which he took her to the bathroom. He then stood her up against the wall and raped her. The woman was so weak that her cries were not heard beyond the bathroom while a relative waited outside with Rs 100 that had been borrowed to pay for the bath.

The rape was detected and confirmed when the victim was found bleeding profusely in her bed, leading to a medical examination. Public outrage ensured better treatment for her with the government forming a panel of expert doctors to take care of her. "For nearly two years she was in different hospitals for burns treatment and counseling,'' says her widower father.

The woman said she and her family were not aware that Subramanian was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 2006. "I had gone to court for the trial four or five times. The prosecutor showed me a newspaper photograph of the accused to help identify him in court. We do not know whether he is in jail or out," she told The Indian Express.

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