NEW DELHI: India’s supreme court ordered the Gujarat government on Tuesday to pay a record compensation of five million rupees, give a job and a home to a Muslim woman gang-raped during communal violence in the state more than 15 years ago.
Bilkis Bano, the woman, had rejected an offer of 500,000 rupees last month. Her lawyer hailed the decision, saying it could help other victims win justice.
“This is a case where the maximum compensation has been granted by any Indian court for rape or communal violence,” said Shobha Gupta, Bano’s lawyer, describing the judgement as “historic” at a press conference.
The cash compensation is nearly four times more than the 1.3 million rupees granted to a victim in north-eastern India in a 2017 case — the next highest amount, according to Gupta.
“When such orders are passed, yes, you have a ray of hope,” said Gupta. “There is a message that goes out that `yes, there are courts still existing and justice can still prevail’.”
Last year, the supreme court approved a scheme that guarantees survivors of sexual assault compensation of up to one million rupees, saying such aid was crucial for their care and rehabilitation.
India strengthened its laws on sexual assault after the fatal gang-rape of a student in New Delhi in 2012 sparked nationwide protests.
Yet women brave enough to go to the authorities still face numerous challenges, from hostile police, faulty medical and forensic examinations to shoddy investigations and weak prosecutions.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019