Open Letter to Hon'ble Law Minister for Gender Neutral Rape Laws

To

Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad
The Hon' ble Minister of Law and Justice
Government of India
4th Floor, ' A' Wing
Shastri Bhawan
Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi 110001

July 4, 2020

Subject: Amendment of Section 375, Sections 354A, B, C and D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Hon' ble Minister,

We are a collective of conscientious citizens of India who have organized ourselves under the name of “NoRapeIndia”. As a group of volunteers committed to the cause of preventing sexual violence and committed to the cause of the rights of victims thereof, we are writing this letter to you to address a glaring gap in the law namely, that no remedy is provided to adult male victims of rape in India.

OUR PLEA

We are calling upon you to initiate steps in the Parliament of India to amend Section 375, Sections 354A, B, C and D of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to make rape and sexual harm in general, gender neutral offences and ensure that those perpetrating such sexual violence against men, are treated with no less rigour and conviction than those who perpetrate such harm on women.

As can be seen from the ghastly incident involving police brutalities against the two in Santhankulam, Tamil Nadu, the rape of adults identified by their anatomy as “men” are undermined due to the nature of such assault not being classified as rape. Sadly, it took the death of these two men for the law to address what happened to them with the seriousness necessary, by invoking charges of murder. If not for the tragedy of their deaths, the law' s best response to the brutality that they endured and the unacceptable injustice they suffered would have been to slap the accused policemen with less serious charges of inflicting grievous hurt or the more vague and controversial charge of “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, neither of which fully and effectively address the need for accountability of the criminals who were responsible for the chilling horror of the crime committed upon them.

You would appreciate that what was done to these two men is no less cruel than the tragedy of the Nirbhaya rape incident. Therefore, and specifically in view of having recognized male children as victims of sexual abuse under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, there simply remains no justification to deny adult men the benefit of similar legal protection.

THE RATIONALE

Evolution in the realm of human rights jurisprudence coupled with the works of psychologists and behavioral scientists, such as Nicholas Groth, has now helped us understand that it is the nature of and motive for the violence and not the gender of the victim or the perpetrator that truly characterizes sexual assault. In fact, Groth famously describes the clinical definition of rape, as “pseudo-sexual acts that serve non-sexual needs”. As opposed to other forms of grievous hurt and egregious harm, sexual violence seeks to attack the fundamental core of the victim' s personal autonomy and bodily integrity in an effort to assert a sense of power or to give expression to the perpetrator' s anger and sadistic intents. The hurt is not designed for sexual gratification but rather is intended to be an intimate form of violence, calculated to rob a person of not just life but the freedom of asserting a wholesome body and mind. The focus of our rape laws must reflect the latest understanding of sexual harm and should effectively provide redressal to all victims of rape, men, women and transgenders.

The amendments to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 following the Nirbhaya case, which expanded the definition of rape to criminalise not just non-consensual peno-vaginal intercourse, but any kind of violence involving the penetration of bodily orifices of the victim, was a step in the right direction but a journey half complete. But as is already stated, even the amended version of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 seeks to penalize, not the act of sexual assault or rape, but rather only the male perpetrator inflicting it on a female victim. By focusing less on the act of rape and more on the gender of the perpetrator and the victim, the law validates the patriarchal stereotype of men being custodians and agents of power, immune to harm, which in itself, remains a precipitating factor in the culture of rape prevalent in this country and globally. As a result, the law presumes erroneously that men are invincible to sexual harm and conversely (albeit perhaps unintentionally) that women are the weaker sex.

There is therefore an urgent need to correct this anomaly in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to not only address the needs of adult male and transgender victims of rape, but to demonstrate that the Parliament of this country is alive and sensitive to the clinical understanding of sexual violence. It is our collective prayer as Citizens for NoRapeIndia that these amendments will be urgently considered.

Thanking you

Yours Sincerely
Ravina Raj Kohli, Citizen
Dr Prof Vikram Singh, Ex DGP UP
Ashok GV, Advocate

 

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