Law

Sexual Offences: Visualising the Indian Scenario

“The poor rate of conviction is primarily due to prosecution’s inability to gather enough evidence against the accused following inadequate police investigation,” [1]

 Introduction to the offence with relation to Indian laws

 India recognizes many rights of the citizens in the Constitution, out of which one is the right to life and liberty under Article 21 which has received many broad interpretations from its critics. It also includes right to privacy both for the men and women equally. It directly implies that those who outrage the modesty of women are heinous criminals and are forbidden from the right to enjoy the gift of the nature, i.e., a dignified life. They themselves dig a ditch for themselves and call for action, the laws in Indian Penal Code, Criminal Procedural Code and Indian Evidence Act.

 Dictionary meaning of sexual offence along with miscellaneous view

It is defined as a statutory offense, meaning, it is a crime to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat. Most states have replaced the common law definition of rape with statutes defining sexual assault. THE MOST COMMON FORM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT IS RAPE AND OUTRAGING OF MODESTY WHICH MAY RANGE FROM HOOTING TO STALKING.

In recent times, the hullaballoo has been over rape as a crime. Let us find out what is the dictionary meaning of the term. The dictionary meaning of the word rape is “the ravishing or violation of a woman.” [2] Rape is a crime, which has a devastating effect on the survivors; it has been described as a “beginning of a nightmare”. The aftershocks include depression, fear, guilt-complex, suicidal-action, diminished sexual interest. etc., “one becomes afraid of’……..writes a victim,[3] “half the human race”. Referring to the pitiable condition of women in society, Mr. Justice S. Ahmad observed that “unfortunately, a woman in our country, belongs to a class or group of society who are in a disadvantaged position on account of several social barriers and impediments and have therefore, been victims of tyranny at the hands of men with whom they, unfortunately, under the Constitution “enjoy, equal status”.[4] “Women also have the right to life and liberty; they also have the right to be respected and treated as equal citizens. Their honour and dignity cannot be touched or violated. They also have the right to lead an honourable and peaceful life”.[5]

The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 is an Indian legislation passed by the Lok Sabha on 19 March 2013, and by the Rajya Sabha on 21 March 2013, which provides for amendment of Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on laws related to sexual offences.[6] The Bill received Presidential assent on 2nd April, 2013 and was deemed to come into force from 3rd February, 2013. It was originally an Ordinance promulgated by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in light of the protests in the 2012 Delhi gang rape case.[7]

Many new changes have been made by the Criminal Amendment Act of 2013. These have been listed in a nutshell below. These changes have acted as an accelerator to the passing of the ordinance relating to capital punishment in sexual offences.

  1. Section 354A: Sexual harassment
  • Clause (v): “any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature” has been removed.
  • Punishment for offence under clauses (i) and (ii) has been reduced from five years of imprisonment to three years.
  • The offence is no longer gender-neutral, only a man can commit the offence on a woman.
  1. Section 354B: Act with intent to disrobe a woman
  • The offence is no longer gender-neutral, only a man can commit the offence on a woman.
  1. Section 354C: Voyeurism
  • The offence is no longer gender-neutral, only a man can commit the offence on a woman.
  1. Section 354D: Stalking
  • The offence is no longer gender-neutral, only a man can commit the offence on a woman.
  • The exclusion clause and the following sentence has been removedor watches or spies on a person in a manner that results in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind of such person, or interferes with the mental peace of such person, commits the offence of stalking“.
  • Punishment for the offence has been changed;
  • A man committing the offence of stalking would be liable for imprisonment up to three years for the first offence, and shall also be liable to fine.
  • For any subsequent offence, the convict would be liable for imprisonment up to five years and with fine.
  1. Section 370: Trafficking of person
  • “Prostitution” has been removed from the explanation clause.
  1. Section 375: Rape
  • The word sexual assault has been replaced back with the word rape. The offence is no longer gender-neutral, only a man can commit the offence on a woman. The clause related to touching of private parts has been removed.

Capital Punishment and Criminal Amendment Prove to be an Abortive Method

 The findings demonstrate an overwhelming consensus among criminologist that the empirical research conducted on the deterrence question strongly supports the conclusion that the death penalty does not add deterrent effects to those already achieved by long imprisonment.

Nearly 68,000 rape cases were registered across the country during 2009-11 but only 16,000 rapists were sentenced to prison, presenting a dismal picture of conviction of sexual offenders and proving that death sentence is of no threat to them. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011 but only 5,724 people were convicted for the crime. Similarly, in 2010, 22,172 rape cases were registered while the number of convicted persons for the crime was 5,632. A total of 21,397 rape cases were registered in 2009 but only 5,316 persons could be convicted.

Conclusion

The above data related to the research work has made it explicitly clear that the peril of capital punishment has not yet been able to amputate the fulmination and peril of sexual offences. Yet what we can do is, deliberate upon ways and means to curb this crime, to nip this off from the bud. At this moment, the crime is at such a high rate, that we, as a society, are petrified to even discuss it but we have to be courageous enough to tackle it, especially by employing group-thinking as a tool.

On one hand, the then Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, Ms. Sushma Swaraj, demanded death penalty for the rapists of the 23-year-old paramedical student, stating that the developing countries like India do not have a deterrent punishment for such heinous crimes. On the other hand, we could see Additional Sessions Judge, Ms. Kamini Lau suggesting “chemical castration” as an alternative to a jail term for rapists. Chemical castration is the administration of medication designed to reduce libido and sexual activity, usually in the hope of preventing rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders from repeating their crimes. In the US, UK and Germany, chemical castration is being used as an alternative.

In a nutshell, before awarding any punishment, law makers must see whether that will be a final solution to the crime or not and whether the steps which the government is taking will curb the crime or not. What we want cannot be termed as temporary relief; we aim at permanent cleanliness of the society.

[1] Home ministry official . Press Trust of India. http://www.firstpost.com/india/more-than-68000-rape-cases-from-2009-11-but-only-16000-convicted-611676.html. Retrieved  31st  July 2014

[2] http://www.merriam-webster.com/

[3] http://www.legalindia.in/rape-laws-in-india/Retrieved 22nd July 2014

[4] http://www.legalindia.in/rape-laws-in-india/ retrieved 23rd july 2014

[5] http://www.legalindia.in/rape-laws-in-india/ retreived 21st july 2014

[6] “Lok Sabha passes amendments”. NDTV. 19 March 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2014

[7] “Prez Pranab Mukherjee promulgates ordinance on crime against women”. Indian Express. 3 February 2013. Retrieved July 22, 2014.

About the Author

SanyaSanya is a student of B.Sc. LL.B. Hons., pursuing her five year integrated course from Central University of Bihar. She loves to spend her leisure time in going through books on law and works of Shakespeare. She also has a special interest in reading Case Laws and keeping herself updated. Currently, she is interning at the Model Governance Foundation.

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