Since the Nirbhaya gang-rape case in 2012, there have been faster convictions and stringent actions taken against rape accused. There has also, however, been an increase in the number of false rape cases being filed, to the extent that courts have given judgments asking the women’s commission to train their counsellors to not encourage false cases.
There are regular stories in the media, of gangs extorting money from innocent men with the threat of false rape cases. Salman (name changed), an IT consultant, had consensual intercourse with his girlfriend and wanted to marry her – he has submitted proof of her consent and his willingness to marry her. They both got engaged in the presence of friends, although her family was yet to agree to the marriage. Eventually, his girlfriend refused to marry him and broke up. But suddenly after a year, she barged into his office, saying she is pregnant and wanted him to marry her. Upon his refusal, she filed a rape case against him within a couple of days, citing intercourse under false promise of marriage. She also filed a case of assault against his cancer-stricken sister and a molestation case against his father, who spent a week in jail.
Bhuvanesh (name changed), who resides in the Middle East, was introduced to a girl whom his sister found through a matrimonial site. After a few online interactions and a couple of meetings, Bhuvanesh rejected the proposal for marriage. However, the girl did not take the rejection fairly and filed a false rape case. Bhuvanesh spent weeks in jail, his passport impounded. He had lost his job and almost his will to live when he called our suicide helpline.
Filing a false rape case, when a man ends a relationship or refuses the advances of a woman, should be held equivalent to acid attack on a person by a spurned lover. If we can sympathise with those victims, it would be hypocritical of us to be blind to the victims of these false cases. Not all scars are visible, but they could be equally destructive. There are men who lose their careers, reputation, livelihood and in some cases, even lives, because of such false cases.
Statistics by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that about 74% of rape cases under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code result in acquittals. Studies have shown that out of these, 40% cases are of a girl’s family filing rape case on the boy, after the couple has eloped to marry. Further, 30% cases are filed by women who allege that intercourse took place following false promise of marriage. Some women claim to have been raped for months together when they had everything in their disposal to raise an alarm if they had wished to. Men can’t be the collateral damage in such cases because these cases are more damaging to women as they trivialise a heinous crime like rape.
Most cases of false rape have out-of-court settlement. There is a huge incentive – extortion – to frame an innocent man in a false rape case. If a man has violated a woman, he should be punished; monetary settlement or withdrawal of case should be disallowed for such heinous crimes. There is no penalty on a woman filing a false case. This encourages false accusers to lie with impunity under oath. The woman should receive at least the same punishment as prescribed for the convicts. Most importantly, withholding the name of the accused until conviction would take away any advantage these false accusers have, by threatening innocent men with tarnishing their reputation.