Misuse of Rape laws

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Misuse of Rape laws

Retired Supreme Court judge Justice B.N. Srikrishna has said that there is “no doubt that rape laws are being misused in the country.” He has also advocated that the name of the accused be kept anonymous.

What is rape as per the Indian Penal Code?

  • A “rape” charge under Section 375 of IPC has two parts:
  • Non-consensual penetration of any orifice in women by a man, or,
  • Non-consensual touching of any orifice with the mouth. This is not restricted to having sex. Forcing a woman to this herself, or with someone else, is also rape.
  • The court will decide that these acts are rape if:
  • It happens without her consent, or
  • She agrees, but only because she or someone she knows is in danger, or
  • She agrees, but because she thinks the accused person is her husband, or
  • She agrees, but she is drugged, or drunk, or mentally ill, or
  • She is under 18 – then it does not matter if she agreed or not, or
  • She is in no position to indicate whether she agreed or not – for example if she is unconscious.
  • Consent is defined as a clear, voluntary communication that the woman agrees, leaving no room for debate. It also makes it clear that the absence of physical injuries is immaterial for deciding consent.

2019 NCRB report statistics

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  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released the annual Crime in India Report 2017 in 2019.
  • A total of 32,559 rapes were reported in 2017.
  • Madhya Pradesh - highest number of rape cases (5,562 cases reported in 2017).
  • Uttar Pradesh - second-highest after MP.
  • Delhi - decline in reporting of rape cases.
    • 2017 - 13,076 cases were reported (lowest in the last three years).
  • Maximum incidences of Rape by known persons.
    • 32,559 reported cases - 93.1% accused known to the victims.
    • 16,581 rape cases were reported against family friends, employers, neighbours or other known persons
    • 10,553 cases, the accused were friends, online friends, live-in partners or separated husbands of the victims.
  • 5,562 cases reported in Madhya Pradesh - 97.5% were committed by known persons.
  • Rajasthan (3,305 cases) - 87.9% committed by the known persons.
  • Maharashtra - 98.1% rape cases reported against friends, associates or relatives.
  • Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura moderately safer than other states as they have the lowest recorded number cases.

Legal provisions/ government measures against rape

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  • Rape and Murder:
    • If the accused injures the women so badly that she either dies or goes a vegetative state, he can be given a death sentence or imprisonment for up to 20 years.
    • What “persistent vegetative state” means is not defined.
    • SC clarified - a person who is alive but does not show any evidence of being aware of one’s environment is in a permanent vegetative state.
  • Gang rape:
    • Raped by a group of people at the same time.
    • Each of them will be punished under Section 376D of IPC.
    • Imprisonment of between 20 years and life imprisonment.
  • Repeat Offenders:
    • Section 376E of IPC - death sentence to the person convicted for the second time for rape, rape causing death or result in a permanent vegetative state, or gang rape.
  • National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO):
    • The government launched NDSO on September 20, 2018.
    • It contains entries of the offenders convicted under the charges of rape, gang rape, POCSO and eve-teasing.
    • It contains entries of cases that were reported since 2008.
    • It is managed by NCRB.
    • It is accessible to only the law enforcement agencies for the investigation and monitoring purposes.
  • Fast Track Courts:
    • In response to the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape Case, the Indian government established the fast-track courts for the speedy disposal of the rape cases.

Drawbacks of the anti-rape laws in India

  • Growing concern over the potential abuse of the anti-rape laws.
  • Indian anti-rape laws only protect women from rape and sexual assault.
  • They don’t provide security to men and transgender people.
  • Limited and don’t have violence or coercion at their core.
  • Marital rape is still legal – unless the married couple is separated.
  • Politicians accused of the crime may remain in office and benefit from the slow justice system until convicted.

Way forward

  • Women should be given respect and be allowed to exercise their rights and their life must not be defined by the social norms.
  • Awareness must be made at the grass-root level to both men and women about women’s rights.
  • Men must be educated so that they understand respect, boundaries and consent in a way that will prevent them from violating women’s rights.
  • The government must ensure that the laws are strictly enforced.
  • It must improve the infrastructure to protect women’s rights.
  • It must also make marital rape illegal.
  • Half of the Nirbhaya fund is unutilized despite the desperate need for helplines, fast-track courts, one-stop crisis centres and shelter homes.
  • Funding also must be provided for programmes to support and advocate women’s rights.
  • The police must play a proactive role in making the police stations welcoming places for women so that they can file complaints with ease.
  • Under-reporting of such crimes does not help in solving this problem.
  • Steps must be taken so that it is not tabooed in society.
  • Private companies can play a role in protecting their women employees from such heinous crimes.
  • Providing cabs for those who are working in night shifts is one of the many measures that can be taken by the private companies in protecting their female employees.
  • Representation of women on screen must change.
  • The TV shows must cease the culture of objectifying women and ban those contents that may be harmful to women.
  • Instead, women on screens must be given strong lead roles. They must be portrayed as the one with equal and independent powers as that of their male counterparts.
  • The film industry has far more power in changing society’s mindset than laws.
  • They must make sure India’s patriarchal society becomes the one that cherishes equality and coexistence of all.
  • Thus, united efforts of people from all walks of life along with active enforcement of laws can bring wonders to the society.

All these measures must work in coherence with the fact the men are also vulnerable to false claims of rape and they should be given required protection against the same.