Criminal law has been a significant site of reform in the context of sexual violence in India. Beginning with the amendments in 1983, several Supreme Court decisions and legislations have brought changes to the rape law. The paper uses findings from an eight-week long ethnographic study of rape trials in Lucknow’s Fast Track Court to argue that the legal changes have had little impact on the trial discourse. The author observed 95 rape trials, interviewed 12 lawyers, and conducted focus group discussions at 12 police stations in Lucknow. The paper exposes a chasm between the written formal law and the operational law in Lucknow’s lower court. The paper also demonstrates the narrow understanding of ‘real’ rape amongst lawyers and police personnel involving stranger rapes resulting in serious injuries. Further, the paper uses two case studies from the ethnography to reveal the normalization of sexual violence in acquaintance rapes, resulting from a narrow conception of what constitutes ‘real’ rape. It is finally argued that the transformative potential of criminal law for sexual violence is rather limited. The paper concludes by advocating for strategies outside of criminal law to combat sexual violence.
"Ethnographic Study of Rape Adjudication in Lucknow’s Trial Court,"
Socio-Legal Review: Vol. 16:
2, Article 4.
Available at: https://repository.nls.ac.in/slr/vol16/iss2/4