The brutal gangrape of a 23-year-old paramedical student, during which she was also sexually assaulted with an iron rod, has given rise to a debate over expanding the legal definition of rape to include incidents where "foreign objects" are used as tools of such attacks.
Under Section 376 of the India Penal Code, rape is usually understood in terms of physical penetration by rapists. Sexual assaults with foreign objects - commonly known as digital rape - get covered either under Section 377 (unnatural sex) or Section 307 (attempt to murder) of the IPC. A person found guilty can be sentenced to jail for a maximum of 10 years.
In February this year, additional sessions judge Kamini Lau had drawn the legislature's attention to the lacunae in the existing law that does not include "digital rape". Convicting a man who used a foot-long wooden stick to sexually assault an 80-year-old destitute woman, Lau had expressed helplessness in handing down a befitting punishment to him.
Advocate Meenakshi Lekhi concurred with Lau's suggestion. She said: "Digital rape should be made equivalent to rape. The use of an object to criminally assault should be legally made part of laws on rape."
Counsel Geeta Luthra called for an immediate change to the rape laws. "Her physical torture is immense. She battles for life every day," Luthra said, demanding severe punishment for those involved in such assaults.