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Gender Neutral Rape Laws

“Let us broaden our minds

Let us think of time

Let us make society bright

Let us give everyone right”

Gender neutrality is a concept that postulates the eradication of distinction between different sexes in the drafting and execution of laws. It aims to make every citizen entitle to equal rights, for instance, equal protection of the law, etc. without distinguishing on sex. As regards, rape laws, it aims to exterminate the male-female paradigm attached to rape in Indian laws. Albeit the definition of rape under Section 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 has been amended multiple times, it still peers with the traditional notion attached to rape wherein the victims and perpetrators are always women and men respectively. Society says that today we have equality as nobody can discriminate us on the bases of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them as per ARTICLE 15 of our constitution. Are they really applicable in current scenario? As per IPC section 509, whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, makes any sound or gesture, utters any words, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or invades upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term, and also with fine.

But where is the modesty of men? Are they treated equally by everyone? In the case of rape also, Section 375 advocates only women and not men, so again my question... Are men safe? Don’t they fall prey to abuse?


Popular culture and the media typically portray rape as involving penetration, which assumes only a male can perpetrate it. So, the common view is that men cannot be raped by women. For example, if a victim tells a friend he’s experienced unwanted sexual activity, the friend’s reaction is likely to be as congratulatory as horrified. And the victim is less likely to report the crime.


There is a common sentiment that men are always open to sexual advances and, therefore, automatically consent. This misconception can lead to situations where, if a man is intoxicated or otherwise unable to provide consent, he may subsequently be sexually assaulted. Contrary to stereotypes, the common view of “no means no” applies to both genders, and a lack of consent is just as significant as an expression of non-consent. The National Crime Records Bureau collects statistics and information on crimes. These crime statistics, especially those on sexual violence, tend to go unreported. The crime rate per 100,000 women escalated to 58.8% in 2018.


After decriminalizes the homosexuality under Section 377 which talks about unnatural acts defined as “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal” (anal sex, homosexuality or bestiality— when people are coming up talking about the sexuality still society is discriminating. They don’t look as the citizen of the country which lead to abuse the homosexual and transgender male in the society. When look upon the cases regarding the rape of the male, homosexual male or transgender society takes negative comments on them. Rape doesn’t only happen with female but there are also male victims. But this is not discussed publicly in the society. The rapist doesn’t look who is the person whether is “she” or “he”. Male are not able to come up to talk publicly about their sexuality or the victim of sexual abuse or rape. They are afraid about their sexuality that what will society think, what are they gone talk about or how will they comment?


The data showed by the government that 50% of the abused children are male who aged between 5 years to 15 years.

Other countries have made the provision after looking upon the rape situation.

· USA was the first country to equate object penetration with penile penetration and consider it rape, unlike other countries where penetration of object is considered different from the penetration of penis and generally provides separate statues for it.

· In Scotland, the “Sexual Offences Act, 2009” brought vital changes in their rape laws and redefined it as- “The intentional or reckless penetration of the penis into the vagina, mouth or anus of another person, without that person consenting and without any reasonable belief that consent was obtained”. To justify gender equality the term “women” was replaced with the term “person” because they understood that there are also male victims who are suffering.

· In UK there was also the change implemented under Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994 by removing the buggery and added the term “non-consensual anal as well as vaginal penile penetration”. In the UK legal system had recognized the male rape and amended” Sexual Offences Act, 2003 (England and Wales)” redefined it further, to include even non-consensual penetration through the mouth and removed the vague provision of indecent assault. However, the current definition of rape still requires penile penetration. Hence, rape laws of the UK are still not gender-neutral as women cannot be penalized for raping men as per their definition of rape.

· Ireland included the oral rape under “Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order, 2008”.

Abuse against children (up to the age of 16) is generally referred to as Child Sexual Abuse and happens when an adult or older adolescent uses a child or younger adolescent for sexual stimulation.

Child Sexual Abuse can take many forms including asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, exposure of the genitals to a child, sexual contact with a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, displaying pornography to a child, viewing of the child’s genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce pornography. After a while in our country POSCO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offence) 2012 was formed to protect children from such offences and to provide a child-friendly system for the trial of these offences (under 18 years of age) and mandates the setting up of Special Courts to expedite trials of these offences.

In February 2018 the government said that they will consider measure to help adult survivor of child abuse must be reported their abuser. The government is recognizing that child sexual abuse is gender neutrals. Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2019 aims to make such progress, when it calls for a gender-neutral section that punishes any form of sexual assault.

A research by Dariwala with 160 male child survivors of sexual assault was brought to the front. Which surveyed 1500 male out of which 71% of men surveyed said that they were abused, 84.9% said they had not told anyone about the abuse, the primary reasons for this were shame, followed by confusion, fear and guilt. Child abuse is a serious psychological issue which leads to harm the child in both physical and the mental trauma.

In India, sex education is not taught well the CBSE had to implement the reproduction chapter but most of the schools neglect the chapter by not talking about the reproduction part of male and female. Concepts like “rape culture” and “victim blaming” were never part of the chapters. As educators, it’s our responsibility to nurture the students. Sexuality and consent are topics that many educators hesitate to raise because of lack of resources and understanding of how to address these deeply complex topics appropriately with children. Children need to know their right to contend their ability to say no and to require an authentic yes from even those in positions of power.


Conclusion

Gender neutrality in rape laws doesn’t aim to completely desexualize rape. Rather, it seeks to increase the ambit of victims of rape. It aims to do away the traditional male-female paradigm notion attached to rape. It is firmly recognized that the implementation of gender-neutral rape laws won’t be a piece of old tacky and it might keep the patriarchal nature of Indian society in view, give unjust powers to men to use it against women. But this shouldn’t be a ground of restricting the bringing of gender-neutral rape laws as it would deprive the male community to avail their basic human rights. State must be vigilant enough to form an effective system to address all such issues in the best possible manner.


- PRAKRITI KUMAR