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Supreme Court Says Discrimination Caused by Intersecting Identities, Gender and Disability Amplifies Violence Against Certain Communities

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Case: Patan Jamal Vali vs. The State of Andhra Pradesh

Facts of the Case

The Appellant was residing in Gajulapalli village and was engaged in carrying out manual work for two years before the incident. PW2 who is blind since birth used to live with her mother (PW1) and brother (PW3). The Appellant lived in the same village and regularly visited the house of PW1 due to his acquaintance with her sons. On 31 March 2011, PW1 was attending to her household chores and her sons were cutting firewood in the vicinity. The Appellant was told to wait for a while. After half an hour, on hearing the cries of her daughter she rushed to the house. Upon raising alarm her husband and sons rushed and apprehended the Appellant on spot. PW2 was found in a nude condition and was bleeding from her genitals. The police investigation was done and charges were framed. The High Court of Andhra Pradesh affirmed the charges. Being aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, the Appellant filed an appeal before the Supreme Court of India.

Court’s Observations

The question arose before the Court discussed the conviction and sentence under SC & ST Act. The Court observed that the experiences of assault are different in the case of a woman who belongs to a Scheduled Caste community and has a disability. When the identity of a woman intersects with, inter alia, her caste, class, religion, disability, and sexual orientation, she may face violence and discrimination due to two or more grounds. An intersectional lens is useful in these situations. The Court further stated that it is important to note that an analysis of intersectionality does not mean that we see caste, religion, class, disability, and sexual orientation as merely “add ons” to the oppression that women may face. Intersectional analysis requires an exposition of reality that corresponds more accurately with how social inequalities are experienced. Also, for many disabled women and girls in India, the threat of violence is an all too familiar fixture of their lives. Women and girls with different disabilities face a high risk of sexual violence. 

Court’s Judgement

The Court convicted the Appellant of the charges under Section 376(1) of the Penal Code. However, the conviction under Section 3(2)(v) of the SC & ST Act is set aside. The PW2 belonging to a Scheduled Caste is not a factor that is extraneous to the sentencing process for an offence under Section 376. The Court also observed in this case disadvantages faced by the women based on caste, gender, disability, intersectionality, etc. 

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