What went wrong for Pushpendra Rathi, a 22-year-old boxer who won a bronze medal for Goa at the 36th National Games? The simple answer is sex. The more complicated one is really quite complicated because it involves the law and the ease with which a boy can be brought down with a rape charge.
The story goes that Rathi met the girl at a sports event. They exchanged notes and became friendly. One thing led to another and they eventually found themselves in bed. How many times this happened is not known.
What is known is that they were boyfriend and girlfriend for two years. She is now 21 years old. Since statutory rape was not added to the list of charges, it means she was not a minor when physical relations started.
The story continues that the parents of the girl approached Rathi with a marriage proposal and he refused. Hence the rape charge.
The question is who, in this age and time, gets married at 22? Marriage is a huge commitment, and it is something that one undertakes when one is mature enough to take the plunge.
To be burdened with marriage at 21 and 22 is quite cruel. And to be forced into it to avoid a rape charge is worse. I mean, if sex by force is wrong, isn’t marriage by force equally wrong?
When you are as young as Rathi and you meet a girl, you dream of a lot of things, marriage and a happy life being some of them. These dreams don’t always pan out.
The world of love is littered with a lot of broken hearts. So to think that once you start having physical relations it has to result in marriage, is like turning real life on its head.
The only blessing for Rathi at this moment is that he has been granted bail, which, by the way, was the right decision because one has to differentiate between real rape, that is, where physical force is used and consensual sex that goes bad because one person wants to get out or one person’s parents get involved in the process.
The premise for prosecuting a boy in such cases is based on the outdated view of sex where it is assumed that the girl gives and the boy takes.
This is no longer valid because today, girls, not all, are having sex like boys. The fact that girls also want to explore the boundaries of a physical relationship is not even considered.
It would have been a different matter if Rathi had deceived the girl to have sex with her and then done the vanishing act. Apparently, they were going at it for two years, which is what young people do these days. So, to be arrested and charged with rape only because you fell in love is cruel.
Even in the children’s court over 95 per cent of the cases relate to consensual sex between two persons, out of which the girl is usually a minor.
That is why there is a strong recommendation from several quarters to reduce the age from 18 to 16 for statutory rape.
The manner in which Rathi is being prosecuted leads one to believe that once you have sex with a girl, you have to get married to her. There is no choice because she can always bring a rape charge against you.
And while the law favours the girl, there is no law to protect the boy from revengeful litigation. And therein lies the injustice of it all.