SEXUAL ASSAULT – A CRIME THAT NEEDS TO STOP

Reading time : 8 minutes

INTRODUCTION

Women hold an important position in our society but despite this  their place still remains undermined. In our ancient texts women were glorified, were treated as the creator , the goddess but looking at the current situation this just seems mythical and something that doesn’t exist in our society.  Although the crimes against women are only increasing nothing much is being done to help them from these horrifying crimes. In India very few crimes against women get registered, out of which fewer cases are prosecuted and from them only a handful are rightfully punished for their wrongdoings. Crimes against women like sexual assault, rape, molestation affect the women not just physically but mentally as well where she faces the trauma of these crimes throughout her lifetime.  

A] SEXUAL ASSAULT IN INDIA

1) Meaning and definition

  Sexual assault is defined under section 354 of ipc as

 “Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.—Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with impris­onment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”

Sexual assault covers a wide range of unwanted sexual behaviour that are often used by the offenders as a way to assert their power and control over the other people. Sexual assault is an act in which a person intentionally touches the person sexually without that persons consent or forces them to engage in a sexual act against their will.

In the case of Madan Gopal Kakkad vs Naval Dubey And Anr the supreme court decided that since only a handful of sexual assault cases get reported the ones which are should not go unpunished and they should be punished severely.

In the case of State Of Maharashtra vs Haresh Mohandas Rajput the court said that in grave cases of sexual assault the person who has committed the crime must be given grave punishment.

2) what amounts to sexual assault

sexual assault is any sexual activity that takes place without the consent of the receiver. Sexual assault is an umbrella term that includes terms like rape, molestation.

According to the POSCO act for sexual assault to take place there must be skin to skin contact if there is no contact then it is termed as sexual harassment or molestation.

These amount to sexual assault :

  • inappropriate touching
  • vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
  • sexual intercourse that you say no to
  • rape
  • attempted rape
  • child molestation

In the case of Beeru vs State Nct Of Delhi  the court decided what acts amount to sexual assault and what would be the punishment for the same.

3) causes of crime against women

  • Few women police:

Studies have shown that women are more comfortable reporting sex related crimes to women police than male.

A study conducted by the university of virginia states that hiring more female police would bring down the rate of sexual assault and other forms of violence.

  • Blaming provocative clothing

There is a tendency to assume that victim of sexual assault has brought it on themselves by dressing in a vulgar manner. Crimes such as rape, molestation, sexual assault have nothing to do with the kind of clothes someone wears. If this mindset is changed a lot can change in the society.

  • Acceptance of domestic violence

In a report by UNICEF in the year 2012 it was found that about 53% of Indian men and 57% of Indian females think that domestic violence or wife beating is justified. A national family health survey also found out that majority of the women blame themselves for being beaten up. If sons see their father assault their mother they get an interpretation that doing this is acceptable and hence he starts accepting this behaviour and starts repeating it. This gives rise to various other crimes like rape, molestation.

  • Lack of public safety

Nowdays women are never safe be it home or outside. Strict laws should be enacted which protects the women not only outside their homes but also inside. When such crimes happen on the road or in public places people stop there watch but no action is undertaken by them. If the people come out and openly start supporting women while the crime is taking place  lot can change and women can feel more protected.

  • Encouraging the victims to sacrifice

Many times when the rape victims are often asked by their elders especially in the rural areas to compromise with the family of the accused and drop the charges. Many times when the girl goes ahead to file a complain against rape, the police pressurize her to drop the charges and marry one of the attackers. If crimes like these are supported then the people doing them will have the confidence of repeating them  and hence if a crime takes place no one should compromise instead one should fight and but the wrongdoers behind bars,

  • Sluggish court system

Our country has one of the highest crime rate against women. In India about 90 cases of rape happen everyday. With this statistics more than 32500 cases are reported but only half of them are dealt with and the rest are either kept on hold or disposed off. If the judicial system can improve its speed while[3]e dealing with cases more accused can be punished and looking at this there can be a great reduction in the crime rate.

3) The recent controversy of the Bombay high court in relation to sexual assault

The Bombay high court recently passed a very controversial order which stated that groping of a child breast without skin to skin contact would not amount to sexual assault. As per Section 7 of POCSO Act,

whoever, with sexual intent touches the vagina, penis, anus or breast of the child or makes the child touch the vagina, penis, anus or breast of such person or any other person, or does any other act with sexual intent which involves physical contact without penetration is said to commit sexual assault.

This act basically means that if there is a physical contact of any sort then it is said to be called as sexual assault.

When the statement of the Bombay high court released majority of the people were shocked to hear about the absurd interpretation of law where the Bombay high court said that according to the definition there should be a physical skin to skin contact for sexual assault to take place and hence groping of the breast without skin to skin contact would not amount to sexual assault. Unfortunately neither the POSCO act not any other laws in india define what touch or physical contact is and this has led the Bombay high court to release an absurd interpretation of the law.

Although groping of breasts without skin to skin contact may not amount to sexual assault but it does amount to molestation under IPC. Hence the rumour that anyone groping the breast would go unpunished is false as this lies in the ambit of molestation.

In an another controversial ruling the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court ruled that  the act of holding a girls hand an opening the zip of the pant would not constitute to sexual assault but rather it would come under the ambit of sexual harassment.

The Bombay high court rulings has drawn too much criticism for its past two controversial hearings. But looking at the wider picture these crimes aren’t going unpunished and law is meant to be interpreted in different ways and since the supreme court has stayed on this order all looks well regarding these matters.

4) Laws protecting the women from sexual assault

a) Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005)- This act protects the women from being a victim of domestic violence by her husband or any other relative. Domestic violence any kind of sexual, physical, mental assault.

b) Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1986)- This act prohibits the indecent representation of women in advertisements, magazines, movies and books.

c) The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention and Protection) Act (2013)- protects the women from being sexually harassed or assaulted in the place of work.

d) other rights include : The right to not disclose the rape victims identity, the right to not be called to the police station for interrogation.

The right to zero FIR was introduced after the horrifying Nirbhaya case where the women could register her rape complain from any police station.

e) sections that protect women :

   section 354A provides for Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment.

   Section 354B provides for Assault or use of criminal force to woman with intent to disrobe.

   Section 354C provides for Voyeurism.

   Section 354D provides for Stalking.

There are many other laws that protect women from various crimes but to protect women from these grievous crimes more stringent laws need to be enforced in India.

B] SOLUTION FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT

India holds the third largest rape cases in the world with a total of 90 rape cases in a day where still many cases are unreported. These numbers should be alarming to every citizen of the country. Our country can reduce the number of sexual assault and rape cases by taking adequate steps. our country has many laws that protect women, but currently where India  is lacking is the execution of the laws. An article in the economic times talks about how the conviction rate of rape in India  is only 27.2% even after the country celebrates justice in Nirbhaya’s case. According to the NCRB 1,56,327 rape cases were on trial in 2018. Of these, trial was completed in 17,313 cases, resulting in conviction in only 4,708 cases. There was acquittal in 11,133 rape cases and discharge in 1,472 cases. Moreover, a total of 1,38,642 rape cases remained pending in 2018. With these figures we realize that our courts need to be more efficient in dealing with these cases because most of the accused of the pending cases go ahead to do further crime in the  thought process that they are not going to be caught. Secondly the government needs to set up more female police stations so that the it becomes easier for the victims to reach out for help and it is found by  a  study conducted by the university of virginia states that hiring more female police would bring down the rate of sexual assault and other forms of violence. There should be regular policing on the streets especially  after midnight in all the states so that women feel safe and can reach out faster for help. There should be an introduction of a  new law specifically  for sexual assault and rape which states that women can grievously hurt the attacker or kill them in the worst situation without holding the women liable. Although this is included in private defence but a specific law for women talking about this would surely make a change where women would not be scared to be held liable while protecting themselves. In many countries use castration for men after they have been convicted with rape or sexual assault where the testicles of the man are removed and this to a large degree helps reduce the cases of rape and sexual assault. The government and other authorities should make sure that the convicted rapists should not be given a bail at an circumstances no matter who their family is or where they belong from. There should be an introduction of another law where bystanders of such a crime if identified would also be punished with one year if they just stand over there instead of helping the women out. Such a law will make the people in the society more aware and this to a certain extent reduce the number of cases. If the above solutions are kept in mind the number of cases of rapes and sexual assault will surely reduce making out country much safer for women.

C] CONCLUSION

The problem of sexual assault is not new but the way in which it has to be dealt should be changed for the effective reduction of number of cases. A study done by the American psychological  association found that  women who have been victims of rape or sexual assault often develop severe anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. This has difficult change in a women’s life including her intimate relationships, the way she views her social and sexual reputation and because of this most of the women have to undergo therapy to get themselves back on track. Women are the backbone and pillars of the society which if weakens the whole society would collapse hence they should be protected at all costs.

References:


[1] Indian penal code – section 354 (a)

Madan Gopal Kakkad vs Naval Dubey And Anr- 1992 SCC  (3) 204

State Of Maharashtra vs Haresh Mohandas Rajput- 2008 (110) Bom L R 373

Sexual assault meaning at https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-is-sexual-assault

[2] What amounts to sexual assault at https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/sexual-abuse-and-assault#1

Beeru vs State Nct Of Delhi – Criminal Appeal No. 1079 of 2010

Causes of sexual assault at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2012/12/29/india-rape-victim-dies-sexual-violence-proble/

[3] Editorial – Opening Pants Zip Not Sexual Assault: Bombay HC Judge Who Ruled On Skin-to-Skin Contact -outlook web bureau – 28th January 2021

SC Stays Bombay HC’s ‘Groping Without Skin-to-Skin Contact Isn’t Sexual Assault’ Order- The wire – 27th January 2021.

Touchy Interpretation Of Child Sexual Assault By Bombay High Court- Ashok Kini , Live Law – 25th January 2021

[4] Laws protecting women form sexual assault at http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/rape_laws.htm

[5] Countries with the most rape cases  times of india – 24th April 2018

Study : Hiring female police officers helps women report violence , sexual assault- university of Virgina

Conviction rate for rape only 27.2% even as country celebrates justice in Nirbhaya case – The economic Times – 9th January 2020

The national crime records Bureau (NCRB) .

Does Castration stop sex crimes – The Washington post

[6] Rape takes global toll on women’s lives, study finds – American Psychological association – January 2013

Author: Dhwisha Bhatt

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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