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Gender And Indian Penal Code: Analysis Of Section 375

Gender Inequality is one of the most significant exhibitions of inequality worldwide. As a result of a very strong feminist movement that began in the middle of the twentieth century, which shed light on the gross inequalities and atrocities suffered by women on a daily basis, it was felt necessary to make amendments to the law so that women could be equal with men.

The laws we began with were fair, perhaps entirely legitimate for the times, but the dawn of the past day has put men in such a gullible position that they are victimized by the so-called women empowering laws. Much less has been talked about how we have become a prison state by approving virtually all possible draconian laws in order to curb crimes against women, to condone arbitrary arrests of ordinary citizens and to imprison them in deplorable conditions.

This decade has therefore recognized the need for a ‘gender neutral’ society. The Oxford dictionary describes ' gender neutrality' as an adjective for male and female sexes, applicable or common.[1] It describes the idea that policies, language and other social institutions should avoid distinguishing roles by sex or gender and stresses the equal treatment of men and women without any discrimination.

The Indian Penal Code lists down all cases and punishments which a person who commits any crime is liable for and covers any Indian citizen or person of Indian origin. Section 2 of the Indian Penal Code states:
Every person shall be liable to punishment under this Code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he shall be guilty within India.[2] As laid down in this section, the law does not distinguish between criminals, and anyone who has committed an offense is punishable under this Code. However, the assumed belief that every kind of violence is perpetrated by men not only creates a gender divide in the society but also acts as a safeguard for the offences committed by women.

One of the few anti-male laws in the Indian Penal Code is the section 375 on rape.[3]As per this section it is mandatory to be a man to officially rape someone, and a woman to officially get raped. This section does not accept men as victims of rape. The anti-sodomy law of India i.e. Section 377, IPC[4] which has now been read down by the Indian Supreme court, was the only resort for male sex victims.

However even with respect to section 377 in case a male victim was attacked by a male attacker, it was not regarded as rape. There is absolutely no difference between consensual and non-consensual sex between male adults as per the law. In addition, if a woman is the perpetrator, the victim is left with no resort in order to seek justice.

Other aspects regarding sec 375 which highlight the gender inequality in the law are as follows:
  1. A man having sexual intercourse without the will of a woman: There is no way to prove the will of a woman. A woman could have had consensual sex and still claim rape with a vengeful attitude.
  2. As per section 376B/C/D, IPC public servants/ higher-ups who seduce a woman taking advantage of their position and have sex with her are liable to incarceration.[5] There is no such penalty for women seeking sexual favours from men. Likewise, men are not protected against false and frivolous claims made by women with malicious intentions.
  3. A man cannot break up with a woman with whom he had sex after promising to marry her. Otherwise he would be perceived as a rapist as per the Indian laws. In case a girl does the same thing, it would be regarded as women empowerment.
  4. There is no age of consent in the case of men. A 16 year old boy can be charged of rape even in a case where he has consensual sex with a girl of the same age.

Keeping the aforementioned aspects in mind, it can be construed that there is a dire need to recognise and accept the fact that men in our country are raped and are also victims of physical and mental abuse. They deserve as much protection as women from such grave crimes.

As far as rape reforms in India are concerned, the Verma Committee's recommendations[6] must be re-examined and the gender neutrality of rape and sexual assault, as mentioned in the recommendation, must be put forth as law.

Only by recognising male rape, can men come up with their complaints and seek justice. It will also have a psychological effect on the psyche of males; that if they are included in the definition of rape, they will realize that such a heinous crime can be committed even against them by another person be it a male or a female, and that they will have to face the same amount of pain and agony just like a female does. Crimes like rape occur regardless of gender, caste, colour, nationality, and sexual orientation.

Provisions should be made where the plight of a man can be heard without any hesitation on his part and allows him to report such crimes without any fear. The current definition of rape, as laid down in the IPC, does not protect male rape victims.

Thus there is an urgent need for the introduction of a gender-neutral rape law which comprises of reliefs for both male and female. It is time for men and women to unite and speak with one voice in building a culture against rape.

End-Notes:
  1. Gender Neutrality Oxford Dictionary
  2. Sec. 2, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  3. Sec. 375, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  4. Sec. 377, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  5. Sec. 376, The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  6. Justice J.S.Verma, Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam, Report Of The Committee On Amendments To Criminal Law, 2013.
Written By: Udita Dalal

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