One would find that rape is a sexual as well as cultural attack which has become a great social problem today. There are many rape cases which have become the headlines of the leading newspapers but the timely actions are not taken on it. After a rape incident, a woman lives a pathetic life which includes fear, depression, guilt complex, suicidal action and social stigma. Figures indicate that 10.6 per cent of total victims of rape were girls under 14 years of age, while 19 per cent were teens between the ages of 14 and 18. Alarmingly in almost 94.2 per cent of cases offenders were known to the victims and those involved included family members, relatives, and neighbours.
It is obvious that there is much to be done to change our laws on rape. While Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code are the major laws dealing with rape, they have failed to match the international standards of addressing the crime. Making tougher laws will only be as effective as its implementation. Violent assaults, rapes and murders of women are symptomatic of a deep societal dysfunction. Any new law on rape should include the conduct of the defence lawyer and bar unethical questions against the rape victim. If an FIR is registered against a person in a rape case, he should be automatically disqualified from contesting elections. The prosecution for rape and sexual harassment should have toughest lawyers pleading the case to have 100 per cent conviction and not one in over 1000 cases.
In view of the increasing rape incidents, it is absolutely necessary to review the rape law humanely and progressively as the existing law is not only partial but also outdated. The decision of the government to bring out an ordinance to award death penalty for rape of children below 12 years has ignited a debate over the effectiveness of the step. The maximum sentence for a rapist found guilty remains unclear under prevailing laws. It includes seven years of life imprisonment, or up to ten years. For those who are guilty of gang-rape, rape of a pregnant woman and related offenses the maximum punishment for the guilty is 10 years. The subject needs a comprehensive review and should include various types of assault, violence and torture, and with gender neutrality. Indian women are far too vulnerable to violent assaults. Sexual violence in villages, though little reported, keeps girls and women indoors after dark. The pity is that to change attitudes to rape so many young women have had to suffer and die. An act the police never prosecute and the public ignores. Women are routinely groped and harassed by men on buses and trains. The reason behind is the vulgar display by even top grade heroines in the form of ‘item numbers’ has become a must for any successful movie. All these adds to the frustration where the age of sexual maturity does not match with the permissible age for marriage. A piece of fool-proof legislation is needed to safeguard innocent victims. Before the dignity of more women is sacrificed, we need to have a real change for the better democracy, greater freedom, full transparency, strict law enforcement, and mandatory punishment for heinous crimes against women. Shouting on roads demanding death penalty for rapists will not work but what we need is that our law makers need be pressurised to enact such law in the Parliament to empower our legal system to hang criminals irrespective of them being major or minor.
Also Read : Show no mercy to rapists – Part I
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)