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India’s Supreme Court orders compensation for Gujarat riots rape victim

25th Oct 2019

Nadine Osman

The Supreme Court of India has called on the Gujarat State Government to compensate gang-rape survivor Bilkis Bano with £55,000 (₹5 million), job and accommodation within two weeks.

Bano was gang-raped on March 3, 2002, and witnessed 14 members of her family being murdered by a Hindu mob during the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A three-judge bench passed the order on September 30 after it was appraised by Bano’s counsel, Shobha Gupta, that the amount was not paid to her client, despite a direction by the apex court earlier this year.

The court had in April directed the State Government to pay Bano the compensation, and also assure her a job and accommodation at a place of her choice. It had then said: “While the state eventually punished the perpetrators of the crime, the victim was left devastated after seeing human fury at its worst.”

However, Bano again approached the Supreme Court as she was not paid after 5 months. “I just want justice from the court,” said Bano, and added: “They have passed an order which has to be followed by the State Government.” “The Government should have given compensation, job and accommodation,” she said.

The Court added: “Not only was she raped 22 times, but her daughter aged 3 years was also smashed to death. Ever since the appellant has been living a nomadic life and surviving at the charity of NGOs. The appellant is now 40 years old and not very well educated. She has lost her entire family.”

“We don’t have to search for elaborate principles of law to decide that the victim must be adequately compensated. Time and again this court has held that quantum of compensation has to be judged according to the loss suffered,” held the Supreme Court on its April order.

Chief Justice Gogoi had pointed out that the rehabilitation of the victim is a priority after her lawyer contended before the court that she had lost everything in the tragedy.

In the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, it became clear that many attacks were focused not only on Muslim populations but also on Muslim women and children. Organisations such as Human Rights Watch criticised the Central Government and the Gujarat State Administration for failing to address the resulting humanitarian condition of victims who fled their homes for relief camps during the violence, the “overwhelming majority of them Muslim.”

An international fact-finding committee formed of all women international experts from US, UK, France, Germany and Sri Lanka reported: “Sexual violence was being used as a strategy for terrorising women belonging to a minority community in the state.”

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