Rapes are a universal occurrence and they are not restricted to any particular country, region, race, caste or class. It is a crime against the entire society. It is necessary to know the anti rape legislations in force and way forward to eliminate this crime.
- Reasons for rape
- History and Evolution of Anti Rape laws
- Statistics of women crimes from NCRB
Statistics of women crimes from NCRB:
According to the NCRB ‘Crime in India’ 2019 report there is no such state in India where women and girls are safe.
- In comparison to 2018, crimes against women have increased significantly by 7.3 percent in 2019.
- An average of 88 rape cases have been reported in the country every day.
- Of the total 32,033 reported rape cases in the year, 11% were from the Dalit community.
- Around 14 girls are targeted every day.
- Every 16 minutes, a woman is raped somewhere in India, and every four minutes a woman experiences cruelty at the hands of her in-laws.
- The majority of cases under crime against women under IPC were registered under
‘Cruelty by Husband or His Relatives’ (30.9%)
‘Assault on Women with Intent to Outrage her Modesty’ (21.8%)
‘Kidnapping & Abduction of Women’ (17.9%)
- The crime rate registered per lakh women population is 62.4 in 2019 in comparison with 58.8 in 2018.
- In Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the maximum number of cases of atrocities against women have been registered.
- The country has recorded a decline of 0.7 per cent in cases of kidnapping and abduction in 2019 over 2018.
Reasons for Rape:
The desire to control is one of the reasons as rape is a power crime. Rapes are committed with impunity during wars. Husbands rape their wives and seek to justify it as a means of punishment to her or to put her in her place or simply to vent out their frustrations.
In some tribal areas, there are customary practices of taking women by force. Lack of safety measures also plays a part.
In villages, women have to venture out at night as there are no toilet facilities at home. This puts them at risk.
Lack of sex education, skewed sex ratio, lack of accessibility and negligible interaction with people of the opposite sex also play a major role in sexual assaults.
In movies, women are projected as no more than an object of desire. This causes women to be viewed as commodities, meant to be consumed.
History and Evolution of Anti Rape laws:
- Rape as a clearly defined offence was first introduced in the Indian Penal Code in 1860.
- Section 375 of the IPC made punishable the act of sex by a man with a woman if it was done against her will or without her consent.
- Section 376 provided for seven years of jail term to life imprisonment to whoever commits the offence of rape.
- Sex with or without her consent, when she is under 18 years is considered rape. However, under the exception, sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.
- After the watershed incident of the Mathura custodial rape case in 1972, a Criminal Law (Second Amendment) Act was passed in 1983.
- A new Section 114A in the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 was inserted which presumed that there is absence of consent in certain prosecutions of rape if the victim says so and this applied to custodial rape cases.
- In the IPC, Section 228A was added which makes it punishable to disclose the identity of the victim of certain offences including rape.
- In 1997, in Vishakha Judgement, for the first time the Supreme Court defined ‘Sexual harassment at work place’.
- The Law Commission in its 172th report recommended widening the scope of rape law to make it gender neutral.
- Accordingly the Indian Evidence Act in 2002 was amended where a new provision was inserted which barred putting questions in the cross-examination of the victim as to her general ‘immoral character’ in rape or attempt to rape cases.
- Following the December 16, 2012 gang rape and murder in Delhi, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act was passed in 2013 which widened the definition of rape and made punishment more stringent.
- Parliament made the amendments on the recommendation of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, which was constituted to relook the criminal laws in the country and recommend changes.
- The 2013 Act increased jail terms in most sexual assault cases and also provided for the death penalty in rape cases that cause death of the victim or leaves her in a vegetative state.
- It also created new offences, such as use of criminal force on a woman with intent to disrobe, voyeurism and stalking.
- The punishment for gang rape was increased to 20 years to life imprisonment from the earlier 10 years to life imprisonment.
- The Act clearly defined offences such as use of unwelcome physical contact, words or gestures, demand or request for sexual favours, showing pornography against the will of a woman or making sexual remarks and allocated punishment.
- Aftermath the 2018 Kathua rape case of a minor girl in Jammu and Kashmir, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018, for the first time put death penalty as a possible punishment for rape of a girl under 12 years and the minimum punishment is 20 years in jail.
- Another new section was also inserted in the IPC to specifically deal with rape on a girl below 16 years.
- The minimum jail term for rape was increased from seven to 10 years.
Justice Verma committee recommendations:
- The panel did not recommend the death penalty for rapists. It suggested that the punishment for rape should be rigorous imprisonment or RI for seven years to life.
- It recommended that punishment for causing death or a “persistent vegetative state” should be RI for a term not be less than 20 years.
- Gang-rape should entail punishment of not less than 20 years, which may also extend to life and gang-rape followed by death, should be punished with life imprisonment.
- Voyeurism can be punished with upto seven years in jail; stalking or attempts to contact a person repeatedly through any means by up to three years.
- Acid attacks would be punished by up to seven years if imprisonment.
- Every complaint of rape must be registered by the police.
- Suggested the protocols for medical examination of victims of sexual assault.
- All marriages in India should mandatorily be registered in the presence of a magistrate.
- It recommended the review of the continuance of AFSPA in conflict areas and recommended posting special commissioners for women’s safety in conflict areas.
- In this patriarchal society, rape is a stigmatized crime wherein aspersions are cast on the victim instead of the accused.
- Though fast-tracking of rape cases has been proposed, India does not have the infrastructure to make this an easy fix.
- There are very few courts dedicated exclusively for child victims of sexual assault.
- By instituting the death penalty, the reporting of rape crimes may decline.
- Convictions in rape cases hinge on DNA evidence from forensic scientific labs. There are only three labs in India equipped for DNA testing and thousands of cases are still pending at these labs across the country.
- Marital sexual assault is not considered rape.
- “Justice delayed is justice denied” – In many cases convictions of accused take years together.
What needs to be done?
Education, gender sensitization and legal awareness are indispensable to control rapes. Commodification of women in the media needs to be stopped. Strict enforcement of stringent laws which are already in place is necessary.
Better policing and CCTV mapping of desolate areas is needed. Society needs to stigmatize the perpetrator instead of the victim. Sensible sensitivity is essential to counter this crime.
- Law is a double edged sword when it comes to sexual violence in India. Comment.
Approach to the answer:
- Give a status about women crimes, especially on rapes in India
- Write important anti-rape laws and amendments in force
- Write down the criticisms
- Conclude by writing what needs to be done