Female Indian Air Force Officer Complains of Intimidation After Accusing Colleague of Rape
17:50 GMT 30.09.2021 (Updated: 10:39 GMT 19.07.2022)
India saw an average of as many as 77 cases of rape reported each day in 2020. The recently released National Crime Bureau Records indicate that about 28,046 incidents of rape were registered during the year. There is, however, little or no data available in public domain about rape occurring in the defence forces.
A female Indian Air Force (IAF) officer has accused her seniors of exerting pressure on her to withdraw rape charges that she levelled against a male colleague. She has accused the authorities of subjecting her to a banned "two-finger" test to ascertain rape after she reported the incident.
On Thursday, the National Commission for Women - the highest watchdog for women's rights in the country - took an interest in the incident and objected to the fact that the officer had been subjected to the "banned, intrusive test". It stated that the test violated the victim's dignity and right to privacy.
The female officer has alleged in her complaint to the police that she was approached by a wing commander who "advised" her to think about her future - including the ramifications for her family and intimidating her from lodging a formal complaint.
She alleged that she was asked to say in a written statement that the episode was consensual after which she summoned up the courage to report the sexual abuse.
The victim said that after she lodged a formal report, the IAF doctors subjected her to the "banned and intrusive two-finger test" to ascertain rape.
She was told that the test was "negative" and was cajoled by a commandant to withdraw her complaint as it would bring disrepute on the Air Force and herself.
Dissatisfied with the inquiry being conducted by the Air Force authorities, the rape victim approached the Indian police, 10 days after the incident occurred and no action had yet been taken against the accused.
The National Commission of Women chairwoman, Rekha Sharma, has written to the Air Chief Marshal of the Indian Air Force to investigate the matter and "impart necessary knowledge to doctors in the Air Force that the banned test has been termed unscientific".
The rape victim has alleged that she was questioned about her "sexual history".
The alleged assault took place on 10 September when the officer travelled for training to the Air Force Administrative College in the city of Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu state. The accused officer - a 29-year-old Flight Lieutenant - was also part of the training group.
The accused officer was arrested by police on 27 September, after a criminal complaint was filed against him.
27 August 2021, 12:13 GMT
The case has set off a debate about whether the Indian police can put defence personnel on trial. The accused officer's lawyer has said that he can be tried only under the special Air Force Act.
After the victim made her report to the police, the accused defence officer is being tried as a civilian under the purview of the Indian Penal Code and not by defence authorities.
The police have maintained that the victim was unhappy with the inquiry conducted by the Air Force Administrative College where the assault occurred and that was the reason she approached the police.
Coimbatore Commissioner of Police, Deepak M. Damor, was quoted by Indian news website NDTV as saying: "There is no provision in the law to transfer a police report to the Air Force. Police will complete the investigation and file a report before the court."