MUMBAI, India – India’s Supreme Court has rejected an application to allow a former Catholic priest to marry the woman he was convicted of raping five years ago.

The victim of Robin Vadakkumchery told the court she wanted to marry her attacker to protect herself and her child from the social stigma attached to the incident.

Vadakkumchery, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, for raping and impregnating the woman while she was a minor.

On Aug. 2, the Supreme Court said it saw no reason to overturn a High Court decision refusing to suspending the former priest’s sentence in order to allow the marriage.

Vadakkumchery was the vicar of St. Sebastian’s Church in Kottiyoor, Kerala, when the crime occurred. The victim gave birth to a daughter in February 2017.

The same month the priest was arrested on his way to the airport in an attempt to flee to Canada. Last year, he applied to the Kerala High Court seeking suspension of his sentence to marry his victim, who had by then attained the marriageable age.

It has been common in India for perpetrators of sexual crimes to seek to avoid their sentences by marrying their victims, a practice the government and courts have worked to end.

Victims often agree to such propositions, since they can still face social stigmas and their children suffer from discrimination due to “illegitimacy.”

The former priest’s lawyer argued Vadakkumchery had a natural law right to marry that could not be denied by the courts.

While dismissing the application, the original High Court opinion cited several Supreme Court precedents which held that rape cases cannot be settled by approving marriage between the rapist and the survivor.

After his conviction, Vadakkumchery was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican.