Rape Crimes in India – laws, death penalty, gender justice

As per NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) data 2016, incidents of rape against women have risen far more sharply as compared to a rise in other crimes against women. Though this surge in numbers may have partly been caused by increased reporting due to rising awareness about gender justice, it still puts into question the efficacy of stringent punishments.

After the 2012 Nirbhaya gang-rape case, a committee headed by Justice J.S. Verma was constituted to suggest changes in rape laws so as to improve security of women. Based on the committee’s recommendations, the definition of rape was widened and more stringent provisions were introduced. Authorities too have been awakened and rape cases are now treated far more seriously, contrasting with the earlier situation when policemen often refused to file FIR in rape cases and rather used to suggest reconciliation.
A public demand also arouse to give death penalty to those who commit rape. Some Indian states (Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh) enacted laws that make rape of a girl below 12 years of age punishable by death. Later, in August 2018, the Parliament too had enacted such a law, which provides for punishment of 20 years to lifetime jail term/ or death penalty.

Opinion: We need to move beyond the theory of stringent punishment as a deterrent and need to address the issue at the mundane level to counter the culture of violence against women in society.

Some related laws from Indian Penal Code (IPC):

  • IPC Section 354: Assault of criminal force on women with intent to outrage her modesty – the molestation law.
  • IPC Section 376: mentions punishment for rape. Minimum punishment for rape of a woman has been increased from seven years to 10 years.
  • IPC Section 375: No sexual intercourse in a marriage is rape, i.e. marital rape (non-consensual sexual intercourse between husband and wife) is not treated as rape crime according to Indian Penal Code. Marital Rape can however still be counted as domestic violence and a woman can take legal action against her husband under domestic violence law.
  • IPC Section 375 (2): This law decriminalised non-consensual sexual intercourse with a wife between 15 and 18 years of age. This law has been scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2017 as it was inconsistent with the POCSO Act 2012 and violated child rights. Now POCSO Act would be applicable, which means that sex with minor wife would be considered rape (even if it is consensual). However, the Supreme Court refused to comment on the wider issue of marital rape.
  • IPC Section 370: related to matters of trafficking, exploitation- prostitution, forced labour, etc.

Crimes against women in India:
Acid throwing, Child marriage, Domestic Violence, Dowry, Female infanticide and sex-selective abortion, Honour Killings, Accusations of Witchcraft and subsequent lynching, Sexual harassment, rape, trafficking, and more.

More related information:

Domestic Violence law in India

Many allege that laws in India are pro-women and do not acknowledge that men too can be victims of abuse by women. They demand gender equal laws for all genders.

According to the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act 2012, sexual intercourse with a minor (a person below 18 years of age) would be considered as rape, irrespective of whether it is consensual or non-consensual.

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