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Don’t keep important laws hanging fire

A man can be raped in the UK but not in India, Upasana Mukherjee reports.

delhi Updated: Dec 21, 2012 02:50 IST
Upasana Mukherjee

A man can be raped in the UK but not in India.

This is because Indian laws don’t recognise sexual intercourse against a man’s consent or his will as rape.

In the UK, the rape of a man is a crime equal to that of a woman. Though only a man can commit the offence, both men and women may be rape victims.

In India, rape laws are not gender-neutral and the definition under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code is restrictive in its scope. Some hope that the furore triggered by the gangrape of the 23-year-old paramedical student will lead to rape laws being tweaked.

Demands have been raised for changes in the laws so that they include penetration of any body part as rape and modifications of their strict gender-demarcated ambits.

Codified in the IPC, rape can loosely be connoted as an offence by a man who has sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent and against her will.

India has sought to make rape laws gender-neutral with the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, which is pending in the Parliament. The bill replaces the existing offence of rape with “sexual assault”. It seeks to make the provision gender-neutral by not designating gender demarcated roles to the offence and instead uses “person”. It criminalises penetration for a sexual purpose into the vagina or anus or urethra or mouth of another person. Unlike the UK law, it does not restrict the offender to being a man.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani described Sunday’s gangrape inhuman. “What is needed is law enforcement rather than changes in law,” he said.

The UK changed its stance with the Sexual Offences Act, 2003. English laws were earlier concerned only with vaginal penetration and used other offences to criminalise forms of sexual violence. Now, both women and men may be raped.

Senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal says, “Criminal procedure laws need to be amended so that the rape victim does not have go through such trauma.”