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SOMETHING THAT MAKES AN INTERN FEEL HUMILIATED

New Delhi, Nov. 25: The law intern who alleged sexual assault by a now-retired Supreme Court judge has spoken of a feeling of being “looked at with suspicious eyes” when she appeared before a panel.

She added that her own mother and grandmother had earlier asked her to “accept” what had happened and move on.

“When I appear before the panel, I feel I’m being looked at with suspicious eyes,” the young woman has told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). “I have to constantly justify that I’m not lying, I’m not making up this story. I feel humiliated.”

The intern did not specifically identify the panel. Supreme Court spokesperson Rakesh Sharma said a panel of three judges would meet at 1.30pm tomorrow to discuss the contents of the interview.

During the interview, she also said: “It’s ironic that I — being a lawyer — say this, but I don’t think Indian law, or our legal system for that matter, is equipped enough to sensitively deal with crimes against women.”

She said when she told her family about the alleged assault, “they, too, weren’t keen on a formal complaint”.

“When I told my grandmother I was assaulted, she couldn’t understand why I was making a big deal out of it. In fact, she didn’t even think it was wrong. ‘We have all been harassed at some point or the other,’ she would say,” the intern said.

“My mother, meanwhile, said what had happened was indeed wrong, but that I had to accept it and move on. ‘You don’t have any other option,’ she would say.”

Asked by the WSJ why she hadn’t filed a formal complaint when the alleged assault took place in December 2012, the intern said: “It took me time to come to terms with the fact that I had been assaulted. When I finally did, all that I wanted to do was to erase the memory.... This was a man I had admired, I looked up to him.

“Indeed, I pondered over the idea of legal recourse, but feared it would do more harm than good. First, my case would’ve dragged on for years. Second, defence lawyers would make me relive every violating moment in court — something I wanted to bury at the time.

“Third, in cases of assaults, where there is no physical evidence, it’s one word against the other, really.”

“There’s no reason why a law graduate would’ve won over a judge with a spotless record. Even now, for instance, when I appear before the panel, I feel I’m being looked at with suspicious eyes...,” the intern told WSJ.

She had deposed before a panel of Justices R.M. Lodha, H.L. Dattu and Ranjana Prakash Desai. The panel was formed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam on November 12 following media reports about a blog in which the intern had first aired the assault charge.

She said she had told her family about the incident five months later, in May 2013.

The intern told the WSJ she had written the November 6 blog to shed light “on the day-to-day harassment in India’s courts” and to perhaps seek personal closure.

While she did not expect it to go viral, she told the WSJ she was happy about it catching “national attention” and sparking broader debates.

“Now, more and more people are questioning why they should put up with harassment — on the streets, in their homes, and at their workplaces. ‘Why should we bear with this? We haven’t done anything wrong,’ they say,” she said.

“Women would fear they would be ostracised if they spoke out. What has changed now — after months and months of debate over sex crimes — is that women don’t pity themselves any more. They feel there is a small group, a small segment of society that will stand by them. Of course, that number is still very small, but for those who have been at the receiving end, it means a great deal.”


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