“Gender equality must become a lived reality”- Michelle Bachelet.
Rape and other forms of sexual offences are some of the most heinous crimes which can be met out against any being and the lawmakers have taken steps to prohibit and punish the same. Section 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes the rape of women of all ages and under most circumstances with a basic penalty of ranging from a minimum of 7 years to imprisonment for life.
Though, both the Indian Judiciary and the Parliament has shown complete negligence in considering males and/or other genders to be the victims of such acts and females to be the perpetrators. This reflects the belief that males cannot fall victims to crimes of submission and this brings out the patriarchal and toxic culture of the society, blatantly. Rape is considered to be a crime of dominance and abuse of power against the victim and it is commonly notioned that men are stronger and capable enough to be able to protect themselves and not be subjected to sexual offences. The LGBTQ community also falls in this underprivileged section of the society as no legal relief for violation of their physical, sexual, mental and emotional self. Female offenders are also immune to this vile crime.
In 2000, The Law Commission of India released its 172nd report and suggested for gender-neutral rape laws which acknowledged its victims and offenders to be of any gender or sexual orientation. This was a very positive step towards the equal procedural of the entire offence but did not yield any results as any actual amendment or statute was not drafted or implemented.
The Delhi Gang Rape case created a huge uprise in the general public and the Government became more sensitive towards the issue which was concerning the entire country. The POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act was introduced by The Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2012. This tightened the rape laws for women and minors. It has provisions for both male and female child against all kinds of attacks noted under sexual offences. Any kind of violation of the private parts of the minor is deemed punishable by the legal system. But the POCSO did not pay any attention nor had any measures for the non-binary minors. Their rape or sexual assault was still not considered offensive or punishable. This raises the question that why do those who have chosen not to clearly state their sexuality or gender are not considered vulnerable or worthy enough to have absolute right over their bodies. The legal system leaves the entire existence of the third gender children, naked to be preys to these of horrific offences. It is questionable why these minors are excluded from protection by the law in the same way that a male or female child is protected. The Sovereign fails to accept their equal susceptibility to such harms as the other stereotypical gendered minors.
In 2013, The Criminal Law Ordinance by the Justice Verma Committee and The Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill were released. The former suggested like the 2000 Law Commission report that gender-neutral rape laws should be implemented but to no avail. The latter was successful in making penetrations other than the penile-vaginal intercourse punishable and the legal consequences of the same became harsher.
In 2017, Sanjjiv Kumar filed a petition in the Delhi High Court for making the rape laws gender-neutral but the court rejected the plea because it felt that because there have been no cases in the past and dealt with this as an imaginary situation.
Section 377 got scraped off in 2018 which was a major victory for the nation but illegal sexual penetration of the non-binary was still not taken into account.
In July of 2019, another PIL was filed in the Supreme Court for again pleading for amendment of the concerned sections and making rape as an offence undivided by gender but the apex court stated that amendment of such was not within the purview of it and such changes could only be initiated by the Parliament. In the same year, Sr. Advocate KTS Tulsi introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha, for the same. The bill is still under debate and hopefully, an equal and aware consensus will be reached for the same.
The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Act, 2019 was brought into force but it still does not criminalize rape and the punishment for sexual abuse is marked for 2 years which is considerably less than that of rape under IPC.
The authorities insist on the fact that there has been a lack of cases of the concerned issue but in fact, two cases made it to light in 2013. In Ghaziabad, a Delhi University male student was abducted by the goons of his girlfriend’s father as he disapproved of the relationship and was held hostage, raped and tortured at the latter’s farmhouse. The victim’s body was violated and exposed to a crime he has no legal remedy for. The fact that his abusers will go scot-free because of a major flaw in the laws of the country is just one of the most major setbacks in incidents such as these.
Ram Singh, one of the main convicts of the Nirbhaya incident was allegedly sodomized by fellow inmates and was found dead. The death of the convict is an open debate if it was a suicide or a murder but there are high chances of the rape allegation standing true.
These authorities fail to recognize that such crimes are governed by overpowering lust, abuse of strength and various other psychological illness which overlook gender, caste and other divisions of society.
Men fail to inform and register about such experiences and instances because they have been pedigreed to think that the same would bring them shame and dishonour. They feel that as the community believes for them to an utter epitome of masculinity and power that they should uphold and any instances of bodily and sexual abuse that they come to terms with will scar this entire belief system and degrade them to be vulnerable enough to be attacked. This also chains the thought that females are highly unlikely to be the perpetrators of such acts.
Equality for each must be assured and served, just bragging about the same won’t bring changes in the real situation and won’t provide safeguard to those who are in dire need and under threat of such savage and barbarous acts and more importantly the tight and constricted mindset of the lawmakers needs to evolve and bring about social justice in real terms and not just in speeches and stop making aerial promises to the general masses.
A country which relies and believes so fiercely on equality, equal offences have no equal punishment here.
“Gender equality must become a lived reality”- Michelle Bachelet.