The Water Cooler

The Price of Rape: Rs 42

According to the Planning Commission, human dignity is worth Rs 2 lakh. That's the maximum compensation for a rape victim who files an FIR with enough evidence and pursues the correct legal channels. The price of a life is higher. A minor or mentally challenged woman, or a woman who gets pregnant or contracts AIDS as a result of the rape, might claim the princely sum of Rs. 3 lakh.

January 2, 2012, the Delhi court awarded compensation of Rs 1 lakh to a 17-year-old rape victim awaiting justice. She was 14 when the incident occurred. In the interim, she tried to kill herself by consuming acid, and was reduced to a vegetative existence. The court, appropriately 'shocked' with the situation, coughed up a lakh and sent her back to the queue.

Article 38 (1) of the Constitution of India provides for Criminal Injuries Compensation Boards in every state. The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of setting up the boards. The National Women's Commission, the Working Women's Commission, and several legal associations have spoken about probable benefits. To date, the board exists only on mildewed official papers.

Our budget policies are ruled by the 11th Five Year Plan (2007 — 2012) that mentions a certain 'Scheme for Relief and Rehabilitation of Rape Victims' drafted by the National Women's Commission. This scheme would help rape victims lodge instant FIRs and claim compensation, help build forensic labs for DNA testing, "sensitize law enforcement agencies, medical establishments", etc.

Now for the reality check. In the Budget of 2009-10, the amount set aside for relief of rape victims was Rs 53.3 crore. In 2010-11 this was reduced to Rs 36.2 crore, and to Rs 7.5 crore in 2011-12, i.e. less by 85%. Obviously, spending state money on raped women was not a government priority. It gets worse on looking closer. Out of the horde set aside in 2009-10, only Rs 9 lakh was actually spent. According to a study by the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes, that's Rs 42 per victim.

Records show the same promises of compensation surfacing after each public litigation and infamous case of rape since 2009. Each time, the declaration sounds like the first decisive step taken by a 'shocked' government that has just woken up to the financial and medical needs of rape victims. Let's sit back, tune in, and enjoy the repeat shows.

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