IT must have taken courage for a 14-year old rape victim to stand alone and give evidence against her rapist after being made to withdraw her complaint, the High Court heard.
On Friday, High Court judge Justice Daniel Goundar sentenced a 36-year old father of seven to 12 years imprisonment for raping and defiling his younger brother's stepdaughter.
The court heard the two incidents happened in September and November, 2010, when the victim moved in with her mother at her stepfather's village.
Justice Goundar said the victim admitted the sexual assaults to her mother after rumours surfaced.
Her mother reported the matter to the police, Justice Goundar said.
The court heard an existing conflict existed between the accused and his brother over the family home and the allegations divided the family further, resulting in the complainant's mother and stepfather moving out of the family home and building their own home on a neighbouring land.
The victim's mother made a traditional apology to the accused's household for reporting the sexual assaults to the police.
Justice Goundar said following the apology, the victim's mother made the victim sign a statutory declaration withdrawing her complaint against the accused.
The court heard the young girl stood alone to give evidence, was extensively cross-examined, accused of fabricating the sexual assaults, but she stood her ground, saying she was raped and defiled by the man.
Justice Goundar said customs and traditions should never be used to restrict access to justice.
"If anything, customs and traditions should be a medium to correct the harm done to the victim by making the offender accountable," Justice Goundar said.
"Without accountability, relationships cannot be restored, no matter how much traditional apology is offered.
"This is an exceptional case where customs and traditions were exploited to suppress the truth."
Justice Goundar set a non-parole period of 10 years.