Rape Crimes | 21 Jun 2023

For Prelims: Rape Crimes, Section 375 of the IPC, Criminal Law (amendment) Act 2013, POCSO, Supreme Court.

For Mains: Rape Crimes, related Challenges and Way Forward

Why in News?

Recently, Japan has passed a bill that introduces crucial measures to enhance Legal Protections for minors, regarding Rape and Sexual Crimes.

What are the Key Points of the New Measures?

  • New Definition of Rape:
    • Japan has expanded the definition of rape from "forced sexual intercourse" to "non-consensual sexual intercourse", aiming to encompass a wider range of scenarios where victims may be unable to refuse or express their lack of consent to engage in sexual intercourse.
  • Age of Consent:
    • Age of consent has been increased to 16 from 13 (the lowest among G7 countries), which is on par with many US states and European nations including the UK, Finland and Norway.
      • The age of consent refers to the minimum age at which sexual activity is legally allowed, with any activity below that age considered statutory rape.
  • Visitation Request Offense:
    • The law introduces a new offense called "visitation request offense", targeting individuals who use intimidation, seduction, or money to coerce children under the age of 16 into meeting for sexual purposes.
      • Violators of this offense may face imprisonment of up to one year or a fine of 500,000 yen (USD 3,500).
    • The law revision also criminalizes “photo voyeurism” — secretly taking sexual pictures of people — and the online grooming of children.

What are the Provisions Against Rape in Indian Context?

  • About:
    • Rape is forced sexual intercourse, including vaginal, anal, or oral penetration, penetration may be by a body part or an object.
    • As per Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), rape is committed by a man when he has sexual intercourse with a woman under any of the following circumstances:
      • Against her will.
      • Without her consent.
      • With her consent obtained by using fear of death or hurt against her or someone she cares about.
      • With her consent, knowing that he is not her husband, she believes he is another man to whom she is married or believes herself to be lawfully married.
      • With her consent, when she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of giving consent due to unsoundness of mind, intoxication, or the administration of stupefying or unwholesome substances.
      • With or without her consent, when she is under 18 years of age.
      • When she is unable to communicate consent.
  • Crime of Rape and Punishment:
    • During a rape, if the accused injured the women so badly that she dies, or goes into a vegetative state, he can be given the Death Sentence or lifetime imprisonment.
    • If a woman is raped at the same time by a group of people, each of them will be Punished for committing the crime (section 376D IPC).
    • Section 376E of IPC allows the death sentence to be imposed where a person is convicted for second time for rape.

Why is Rape Pervasive in India?

  • Gender Inequality: Deep-rooted gender inequality and patriarchal attitudes contribute to the objectification and subjugation of women, creating an environment where sexual violence can occur.
  • Societal Norms and Attitudes: Regressive societal norms and attitudes towards women, such as victim-blaming and the notion of "women's honor," perpetuate a culture of silence and stigmatization around sexual assault.
    • This can discourage victims from reporting incidents and seeking justice.
  • Lack of Awareness: Insufficient awareness about gender equality, consent, and sexual rights, particularly in rural areas, hampers efforts to prevent and address sexual violence.
    • Comprehensive sex education and awareness campaigns are crucial to challenge misconceptions and promote respectful attitudes.
  • Inadequate Law Enforcement: Instances of corruption, negligence, and insensitivity within the law enforcement and criminal justice systems hinder the effective investigation, prosecution, and conviction of rape cases.
    • This lack of accountability can embolden perpetrators and deter survivors from seeking legal recourse.
  • Slow Judicial Processes: Lengthy and complex legal procedures, coupled with a significant backlog of cases, often lead to delayed justice and can discourage victims from pursuing legal action.
    • Establishing Fast-Track Courts and streamlining the judicial process can help expedite rape trials.
  • Social Stigma and Victim Blaming: Survivors of rape often face societal stigma, blame, and discrimination, which can further traumatize them and discourage reporting.
    • Addressing victim-blaming attitudes and providing support services for survivors are essential to break this cycle.

What are the Laws Related to Rape in India?

  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013:
    • Under the Act, the minimum sentence of rape was altered from seven years to ten years. Furthermore, in cases which resulted in the death of the victim being left in a vegetative state, the minimum sentence has been duly increased to twenty years,
  • Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 ( POCSO):
    • The Act was enacted to protect the children from sexual assault, sexual harassment, and pornography.
    • The POCSO Act raised the age of consent to 18 years (which was 16 till 2012) and criminalizes all sexual activities for those under 18 even if consent was factually present between two minors.
      • This Act was also amended in 2019 to make provisions for enhancement of punishment for various offences to ensure safety, security & dignity of a child.
  • Rights of a Rape Victim:
    • Right to zero FIR: The term zero FIR means that the person can file an FIR in any police station, irrespective of the place of incident of the jurisdiction.
    • Free Medical Treatment: According to section 357C of code of criminal procedure (CrPC), no private or government hospitals can charge fees for the treatment of rape victims.
    • No two-Finger Test: No doctor shall possess the right to do Two Finger Tests while doing the medical examination.
    • Right to Compensation: A new provision has been introduced as section 357A of the CrPC, which states the victim compensation scheme.

What are the Important Judgements Related to Rape in India?

  • Tukaram and Ganpat vs. State of Maharashtra 1972 (Mathura Rape Case):
    • The judgment of the trial court favored the accused, stating that Mathura's consent was voluntary since she was accustomed to sexual intercourse. However, the Bombay High Court set aside the judgment and sentenced the accused to imprisonment.
    • The Supreme Court (SC) later acquitted the accused, sparking public outrage. This case highlighted the need for reforms in rape laws.
  • State of Punjab vs. Gurmit Singh 1984:
    • The Supreme Court advised the lower judiciary not to describe a victim as having a loose character even if she is shown to be habituated to sex. The judgment emphasized the need to focus on the act of rape and not on the victim's character.
  • Delhi Domestic Working Women v. Union of India 1995:
    • The SC laid down important guidelines in this case:
      • Providing legal representation to complainants of sexual assault cases.
      • Ensuring legal assistance and guidance of a lawyer at the police station.
      • Maintaining the anonymity of the victim in rape trials.
      • Establishing a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.
      • Providing interim compensation to rape victims.
      • Providing medical help and allowing abortion if the victim becomes pregnant due to the rape.
  • B. Gautam v. Shubra Chakraborthy 1996:
    • The SC held that an interim compensation of Rs. 1000 per month should be given to rape victims.
  • Chairman, Railway Board vs. Chandrima Das 2000:
    • The SC held that compensation can be granted to rape victims on the grounds of domestic jurisprudence based on constitutional provisions and human rights jurisprudence based on international recognition.

Way Forward

  • There is a need for stricter laws and harsher sentencing for rape offenders. Sentences should reflect the severity of the crime and serve as a deterrent. The judicial system should ensure timely and efficient disposal of rape cases to provide justice to the victims.
  • Promoting gender equality, respect, and consent through education and awareness campaigns is crucial. Comprehensive sex education should be included in school curricula to foster a culture of consent and respect for women's rights.
  • Providing support and empowerment to rape victims is essential. This includes legal aid, counseling, and rehabilitation services. Anonymity should be maintained for victims, reducing the fear of social stigma and ensuring their safety.
  • Training programs for police and judicial personnel should focus on sensitization, gender sensitivity, and victim-centric approaches. Proper investigation procedures and victim-friendly court processes should be implemented.

Source: HT