Rape, the most heinous crime next only to murder as it is considered, is in fact more monstrous, for, apart from causing physical wounds, it leaves the victim with severe irrevocable emotional stabs.
According to statistics, in India, there happens one rape every 54 minutes, and a mere 36 percent of the guilty end up behind the bars (not considering whether appropriately punished or not). Firstly, more than 50 percent of rapes are not reported or registered. Fear, shame, parental and/or social pressure, economic condition, threats from the accused, are among the many reasons that lead to hiding the crime done to the victim.
Are women in our nation safe? Absolutely unsafe!
Inadequate laws may seem to be the obvious and only reason, but there is another aspect to it; proper implementation of existing laws. A seven year imprisonment is the sentence for a person accused of committing rape. But is it being implemented to the extent it should be? 36 out of 100 guilty behind the bars, explains how aptly the laws are being put to use. 'Equality before law' and 'Equal protection of laws' should not be confined to Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. If and when the laws, which are meant for the protection of society and prosecution of the guilty, are strictly dispensed, we will be able to see a safer and just society.
Moreover, with political figures being involved, as in a recent case, where the victim, courtesy her economic status and ignorance, was accused of theft and imprisoned, whereas the accused and guilty found no charges against him. Though, in theory laws are same for ever person residing in the country, in practice it certainly is not so. With power, political, bureaucratic or otherwise, people assume the power to alter laws according to their convenience. Considering the fact that one should be of a sound mind and good moral character to be a politician, what can possibly justify such behaviour (misbehaviour)? Either, they deviated from their moral behaviour after getting the opportunity to serve the democracy, or the very basis of their claiming such a position is false. Whichever be the case, justiciability of their misdeeds now, is a big question. Surely, the application of Article 14 has gone for a toss!
Here, where the question is about the safety of women against rape, inadequacy too comes into picture when laws the existing is considered.
Are the existing laws adequate to protect the women? Doesn't seem so!
As mentioned in Indian Penal Code, Article 375, A man is said to commit "rape" who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions: -
First: - Against her will.
Secondly: -without her consent.
Thirdly: - With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.
Fourthly: -With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.
Fifthly: - With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.
Sixthly: - With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.
Explanation: - Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape. Exception: -Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape].
Any sexual assault against a female, whether minor or above 18, whether married or otherwise, should be made a punishable offence, and not just penetration to constitute sexual intercourse. The law providers and protectors should take extra care and effort to condemn and punish any act against the dignity of women, and the punishment should be harsh, rigorous, and without any bias.
The punishment for committing rape in IPC is quoted as; Whoever, except in the cases provided for hereinafter, commits rape shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than seven years but which may be for life or for a term which may extend to ten years and shall also be liable to fine unless the woman raped is his own wife and is not under twelve years of age, in which cases, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both.
Further, the punishment for a policeman, civil servant, hospital staff, or any person working under or responsible to the Government of India should not be less than ten years and may be for life and shall also be liable to fine.
But, there is a clause which states that, 'Provided that the court may, for adequate and special reasons to be mentioned in the judgment, impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term of less than seven years.'
Why should there be any rebate on punishment, whatsoever the 'adequate and special case' may be? Nothing can justify this voluntary immoral act of rape, be it by a civilian or a person under the government. Further, the minimum seven or ten years of imprisonment for a crime as dreadful and gruesome as this, certainly needs to be extended in order to prevent such occurrences. A stern life time imprisonment will go a long way in putting an end to such unjust and cruel behaviour.
We certainly need reformations; firstly, as discussed above, in the implementation of the existing laws, i.e., practicing the idea of 'nobody is above law'; and secondly, as is evident from the laws formulated, in the existing laws which are neither defined as they should be for adequacy nor are they sufficient to protect women in our society and prevent offences against them.