Rape is one of the most heinous crimes against women which becomes very common in India. In 2018, the government released a data in which Almost one woman reports the case of rape in every fifteen minutes. In the latest report of 2018 by National Crime Record Bureau states that there were 34000 rape cases recorded on average across India which was 24,923 in 2012.
It involves an act of forceful sexual intercourse by a man with a woman, Women’s are seen as an object to use her body and to satisfy their own sexual desires. It is an infringement of the right of a woman to have autonomy on their bodies. So, it can be seen that situation is becoming more worst day by day and laws need to be regulated in a more effective way to deal with this problem which can provide justice to victims and helps in prevention of such acts in the society.
It has a severe psychological and physical effect on the victim of the offence. For woman respect and purity is of utmost importance. It is difficult for any women to bear the criticism of society against her identity. This forceful action against the personal space of a woman degrades her life as she feels difficult to live happily facing so much criticism of the society. That’s why many of the victims of rape either end their life or pass their lives in the distress and suffocation. Such psychological effects are experienced by the victims of rape but it does not end here the attack of sexual assault on her body also causes physical effects like gynaecological problems, injuries to private organs and many other.
It is seen in many cases that the victims of rape do not get justice and the person who did such heinous act remains free without punishment, there can be various causes for it but one of the main reason observed is that various cases remain unreported due to several reasons such as the family of the victim do not want to disclose the incident in the front of the society to maintain their status and character of the girl as it could bring complications in the future plans of a girl like marriage, education etc. It is also seen that the victim belongs to the poor family and due to lack of support and economic backwardness of her family they try to suppress the incident. Some typical families have orthodox mentality who believe that such types of acts or incidents are not a big deal as males have the dominant position in the society so a female can pass through any such experience in their life due to which usually victims are not aware of their rights. So, there can be a variety of reasons due to which the case of the victim does not reach to the court of justice and give rise to such offences.
LEGAL FRAMEWORK OF RAPE IN INDIA AND AGE OF VICTIM
To deal with the problem of this offence and to strengthen the criminal law of our country, the legislature of our country takes initiatives to brought acts and amendments from time to time as required to regulate the laws against the offence of rape and the prevention of such a heinous crime which can be possible by taking serious action against the accused and safeguarding the rights of victims.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860
IPC was the first who introduced the offence of rape and defines what is rape. In IPC, Section 375 talks about the criminalisation of the act of rape under which if a man have sexual intercourse with a woman against her will or without her consent or with partial consent obtained through any of the wrongful means such as fear of death or hurt, under influence of intoxication, the misconception of the fact that the man is her husband, unsoundness of mind or sexual assault with a woman who is under eighteen years of age.
According to it, sexual intercourse with a female who is under 18 years of age done with her consent or without her consent is an amount to rape. However, if sexual intercourse by a man with his wife who is not under 15 years of age is not considered rape.
The Law Commission in its 172nd report tries to widen the scope of rape law and recommended that the laws on rape should be gender-neutral though women are more likely to suffer in terms of offences like rape several cases has been reported in which it is observed that man also experiences the act of rape. So, it is not correct to say every time that only the man can carry out such harmful acts.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012
This act was made gender-neutral to protect the child whether male and female from sexual assault and sexual harassment and pornography. The act was proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child development in 2007. Special provisions were laid down by the act for the speedy justice concerning child abuse.
POCSO considers that the person below the age of 18 is not capable to give consent for sexual intercourse, therefore, any sexual assault with the victim who is under the age of 18 years even if the act was done with consent is punishable by POCSO but later the age was reduced to 16 from the new modification and the punishment of imprisonment was also increased. In a case offender is a child then he or she will be tried under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013
The act was passed under the recommendation of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee to make amendments in the criminal laws of the country and to make more stringent punishments for the offence of rape. The need for such amendments arises due to the severe outraging act of gang rape in the country on 16th December 2012.
Therefore, the committee was constituted to re-look in criminal laws of the country and the parliament made the amendments accordingly. So, the act was passed with more stringent laws which widen the scope and definition of rape, the punishment of jail terms increased, new provisions of criminal force against the woman was created, and the committee also recommends for the death penalty in severe cases or in cases which causes the death of the victim.
Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018
Another call for the nation to make harsher punishment for the offences like rape was observed in 2018 when an eight-year-old girl was raped and murdered in a village of kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir. It was another most severe act of gang rape which shook India due to which Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018 was passed and this time harsher punishment was added for the offenders of such acts which put death penalty as a punishment for rape of a girl below 12 years and the minimum punishment of jail terms for such offences increases.
And a new section was inserted based on the age of the victim in which if an act of rape is done with a girl who is under the age of 16 years shall be punished with a minimum imprisonment of 20 years which may extend to life imprisonment and the minimum jail term for the offence of rape increased to 10 years.
AGE OF VICTIM
In the offence of rape, the age of victim matters a lot, various provisions are made in the laws to deal the issue of rape and provide punishment and justice according to the age of victim so that some specific laws come in regulation and speedy justice also provided to the victims according to their age and degree of heinousness involved in the act committed to them.
The need to do so arises as it is continuously observed in the several cases and many reports of researchers have also shown that mostly the victims of younger age suffer more and degree of risk to suffer is higher in their case. It is also shown in one of the reports of that the majority of sexual assault victims are under the age of 30 in which ages of 12-34 are at highest risk. Therefore, many initiatives have been taken by the government to make the rape punishment hefty especially in cases of minor victims.
As minor victims are very less aware of such acts which are wrong but they don’t understand and hesitate to inform their parents also and continues to suffer physically and mentally, therefore, they require more special laws which can support them and help them to fight against such acts and have justice.
Sexual assaults or harassment against women is a very common and persistent social problem in the country. Though many laws have been enacted as the needs arise to secure the interest of victims of rape in the society and to provide harsh punishment to the guilty of the offence, but it can be seen from the various reports that the number of cases still increases across India and the woman still remains helpless, the reports also not include correct figures as many of the cases remains unreported who are helpless and the only option remains with them is to hide the incident to protect themselves from the criticism of the society. So it Can be guessed that how much fear is there in the minds of victims and their families that they even do not want to report the case and it shows the failure of our law and order in our system due to which people do not have faith on their authorities of law and order. This lacuna needs to be identified and filled by the concern authorities for the maintenance of law and order in the society so that no wrong faced by someone, and if something wrong or immoral has been done to them, then they should be provided help to get speedy justice especially in crimes like rape which is not a heinous offence against victim only but is also against whole society as it can occur to someone else also, therefore, it very important that the person who commits the crime is punished so that an example can be set for the other offenders also and fear of punishment can be established in the minds of offenders instead of victims, which can help to reduce such crimes in the society.
- Soibam Rocky Singh, “The laws on rape and sexual crimes”, The Hindu, December 17, 2019, available at < https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/what-are-the-laws-on-rape-and-sexual-crimes/article30233033.ece > (last visited on:16 May 2020).
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Act 45 of 1860).
Author: RISHABH MANCHANDA,
Delhi Metropolitan Education affiliated to GGSIPU/ 2nd Year/ Law Student