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Rape Laws in India

Posted by Admin on August 29, 2014 | Comment

India has reached an alarming point with regard to crime against women. It has to respond to the challenge, believe in the statistics, and prevent women from becoming victims of brutality and physical, sexual and psychological harm. Although we have become overly dependent on tougher laws and legal reforms, the attitude of the administration and common people remains a matter of concern.

Rape Laws in India

Rising Cases of Rape in India

It’s appalling to see the crime report issued by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). According to the report, 93 women are raped in India every day. The more we dig into the report, the more we put ourselves to shame. Going by the figures, there had been close to 34,000 rape cases in India in 2013, which is almost a 40 per cent increase from the 2012 figures.

When it comes to total number of kidnappings and abductions of women, Uttar Pradesh (UP) alone contributes almost 21.2 per cent of the total cases across India. UP, coupled with Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan account for over 40 percent cases registered in 2013. Ever since the Delhi gang rape incident took place in December 2012, the state has seen 15 horrific rapes. The “brutal” gang rape and murder of two teenagers in Badaun district evoked strong reaction even from the United Nations.

Definition of ‘Rarest of Rare Cases’

While death sentence was handed to the convicts in the Delhi gang rape case, the court had reasoned it well. It observed that the case falls under the “rarest of rare category” because of the “unparalleled brutality” evident in the way the crime was executed. Although there still remains an element of ambiguity as to what constitutes “rarest of rare” case, the common consensus around this category of crime is the gruesomeness attached to it.

The ”rarest of rare” doctrine was first introduced by the Supreme Court in 1980. According to the National Legal Research Desk, the court considers both “aggravating and mitigating circumstances” under which the crime was committed. Back in 2008, the apex court rolled out a simple thumb rule – Death sentence should be awarded when a “murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical, revolting or dastardly manner” which triggers “intense and extreme indignation of the community.”

New Anti-Rape Law

It’s only last year that the new Anti-rape law came into effect. Known as the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the new legislation included the provision of handing out life term and death sentence to rape convicts. The Act has amended several clauses mentioned under the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

According to the new anti-rape law, the convict can be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for at least 20 years, which may extend to life depending on the nature of crime. For the first time in the history of criminal law, stalking and voyeurism were defined as non-bailable offences if repeated for a second time. The law also defined acid attack as a crime and included the provision of imposing 10-year jail term for the offenders. The Criminal Law Act law also fixed 18 years as the minimum age for having consensual sex.

Amendments Needed in Anti-Rape Law

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 has faced severe criticism from the women’s rights and the human rights organisations for ignoring certain suggestions proposed by the Verma Committee Report. According to a UN expert, the anti-rape law doesn’t talk about amending Armed Forces Act so that army personnel can also be brought to book for the crime they commit against women.

Asserting that the new law failed to “address structural and root causes and consequences of violence against women,” the expert added that the legislation should criminalise marital rape and lower the age of consensual sex from 18 to 16. It was also pointed out that the anti-rape law in India can’t be considered a holistic one unless it takes into consideration the sexual abuses faced by gays, lesbians and transgenders.

Death Penalty for All Rape Cases?

The Law Commission has set itself upon a task of examining whether death penalty is a deterrent punishment or a “retributive justice.”  In fact, the apex court has admitted that death penalty is “sometimes unduly influenced by public opinion.” India has time and again voted against the UN General Assembly resolution, which sought a ban on death penalty. However, human rights bodies across the world are of the opinion that handing death sentence is the “ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment.”

It’s widely argued that death penalty is perhaps not the answer to ensure safety of women. In fact, there’s no foolproof evidence to suggest that the fear of death can act as a deterrent. Moreover, imposing death penalty for rape cases would make the legal process lengthier and complicated.

Instead, the government would do itself a world of good if it addresses “woefully low” conviction rate for these crimes and make the police force better trained to deal with survivors of sexual violence. Last but not the least, India needs to develop support systems for rape victims.