The old Penal Code exempts it as an offence if a wife is not under 16

Opposing the death penalty for those guilty of rape, women’s groups have demanded that marital rape, stalking and stripping be regarded as serious offences.

The old Penal Code and the proposed amendments exempt marital rape as an offence if a wife is not under 16 years of age. This exemption, totally and unreasonably, ignores the long standing demand of the women’s organisations and groups to recognise marital rape as a serious offence, women’s groups have said in a representation to the Justice Verma Committee that was set up in the aftermath of the horrific gang-rape in the capital last month.

“We also recommend deletion of Section 376 A as we see no reason why the punishment for sexual assault on a separated wife should not be the same as ordinary sexual assault,” the representation has said while suggesting that consent be also defined as the unequivocal voluntary agreement by a person to engage in the sexual activity in question.

One major reason for defining consent in this way is to distinguish consent from mere passiveness. Case law concerning rape is replete with examples in which it has been said that the victim has consented when she has merely remained passive due to a variety of reasons, the groups have said.

The joint representation was given by the All India Democratic Women’s Association, All India Women’s Conference, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, Joint Women Programme, Guild of Service, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, National Federation of Indian Women, Young Women’s Christian Association of India, and Muslim Women’s Forum.

“We have been suggesting that stalking be recognised as a separate offence in the IPC and that an appropriate punishment should be prescribed for it up to 5 years. By not recognising stalking as a crime, most of the perpetrators manage to escape prosecution and can only be charged under Section 509 IPC which is inadequate.” Similarly, stripping a woman should also be recognised as a serious sexual offence, the representation says.

Rehabilitation

Pointing out that relief and rehabilitation of the victim has become an urgent necessity in all cases of sexual assault and other violent crimes like acid attacks, women’s groups have said that statutory schemes to provide immediate medical and other relief should immediately be put in place in all States.

The scheme should provide for immediate monetary relief to be given to the complainant whether her case is pending in court or not. The amount that is provided should not be subject to an upper limit as has presently been suggested by the National Commission for Women as some victims of violence like those who have suffered acid attacks may need extensive and repeated medical attention apart from other relief.


  • A major reason for defining consent is to distinguish it from mere passiveness

  • The Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012 seeks to broaden the definition of rape