India is the second most populous country in the world after China with the longest written constitution. Rape is one of the most common and heinous crimes in India which occurs against the women of our nation. It leaves the victim with a lifetime of trauma and mental torture. Though we live in a progressive society, it still does not recognize its nature and the consequences that the victim and family go through after it. There is a lot of taboo which the rape victim face during their medical examination and judicial proceedings. The age of the victim and as well as of the accused has no bar to it. Rape committed by juveniles of urban and as well as rural places have increased a lot during a past few years. The conviction rate of rape in our country is as low as 30%. The worst part of this is that more than 70% of the cases go unreported.
The judgement of rape cases become late because our judiciary system is overburdened with work and, sometimes it gets so late that either of the parties die. The most common type of rape is acquaintance rape which usually goes unreported. Minors are the most common victims who fall under this category. Our country has many laws to protect women, but the problem stands with the people and their lack of awareness which has caused deep-rooted prejudices against women. It is always ready to blame women for anything that happens to them instead of correcting the evil.
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines rape. It says a man is said to have committed rape if he penetrates his penis to any extent, or inserts an object to any extent, or manipulate any part of the body of the woman to cause penetration, into the vagina or, mouth or, anus or, urethra with him or with any other person, or applies his mouth, to her vagina, or, anus, or, urethra.
There are seven possible descriptions for any of the mentioned act to take place and those are:
Firstly, —– Against her will.
Secondly, —– Without her consent.
Thirdly, —– With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested, in fear of death or of hurt.
Fourthly, —– With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
Fifthly. —– With her consent when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome Substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
Sixthly. —– With or without her consent, when she is under eighteen years of age.
Seventhly. —– When she is unable to communicate consent.
The section is very descriptive and explanatory in itself and covers numerous possibilities as well. But, it was never the same. After February 2013 it was revised and amended through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. It also increased the legal age of a minor from sixteen to eighteen. All of this was possible after the famous Nirbhaya Case, Mukesh v. State (NCT of Delhi) [(2017) 6 SCC 1]. Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 talks about the punishment of rape, and that is imprisonment for a minimum of ten years which may extend to life imprisonment along with a fine that will cover the victim’s medical expenses and future therapy.
Experts say the increment in crime is indirectly proportional to its conviction rate. After committing the act, the accused think it is easy to escape. Officials are easy to bribe (some of them are themselves committing such horrific crimes). Women are shamed and humiliated when they come forward and blame the victim, even if it is a minor. Predators know this and take full advantage of it, even if they get caught they get away with it very easily whereas, on the other hand, the victim suffers from a lifetime of trauma.
Opinions of some people may differ from one another but, rape culture is rooted in our patriarchal beliefs, power and, control. It is high time to take some preventive measures against this horrific crime. Children from a very young age should be taught about free consent. Consent can be given either expressly or impliedly, it should be free and should not be coercive in nature or should not be obtained by fraudulent acts. During the discussion of rape, sobriety of women, her clothes, and sexuality should be completely irrelevant. Victim blaming should be stopped immediately along with objectifying women. The conviction rate should be increased by enhancing the investigating skills of police personnel and producing the complaints and witnesses before the court on time during the trials to make sure they do not turn hostile.
Policies for tolerating zero percent sexual harassment should be established in offices, schools, and the place where you live. Promote and donate to organisations that amplify women’s voices, support survivors, empower women and accept women of all gender identities and sexualities. People who joke about rape and sexual violence should be called out immediately. The voices of survivors should not be shut down, instead, they should listen. People should put faith in them and accept them as they are, as it is not an easy task to come out and share a traumatic experience with the world. Special laws for women should not only be made but should be enforced and implemented with strictness. Perpetrators should be held accountable to end rape culture.
Prosecuting sexual harassment cases recognises these horrendous acts as crimes and send a message of a zero-tolerance policy to society. Schools should run workshops where children are taught about good and bad touch, sexual health, consent, and, most importantly to speak about it to elders without any shame.
This article is written by Mansi Verma of Manipal University Jaipur.