Delhi

Will rape law be ever made gender-neutral, asks Delhi HC

Bench asks about laws in other parts of the world; tells Central government to clarify stand on issue

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday wondered whether there will ever be a right time to make rape and its punishment under the Indian Penal Code “gender-neutral”.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C. Hari Shankar made the remark after senior advocate Sonia Mathur, appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the case, said it may not be the right time now in India to make such a change.

Ms. Mathur, however, said that men need to be protected against sexual offences, which can be done by way of enactment of special laws.

Hearing on October 22

“Will there ever be a right time?” the Bench said, as it asked about laws in other parts of the world. The Bench has asked the Centre to clarify its stand on the issue and listed it for further hearing on October 22.

During the brief hearing, the amicus curiae said that the world view on the issue was that it should be “gender-neutral”.

The High Court was hearing a petition filed in public interest by social activist Sanjjiiv Kkumaar challenging the constitutionality of Sections 375 (rape) and 376 (punishment for rape) of the Indian Penal Code as they were not “gender-neutral”.

Protects only females

Mr. Kkumaar has sought to replace the IPC Section 375 and 375 with gender-neutral laws claiming the existing law pertaining to rape was gender specific and protects only the female.

“Gender neutrality is a simple recognition of reality — men sometimes fall victim to the same or at least very similar acts to those suffered by women,” the petition said adding that the 172nd report of the Law Commission of India had recommended that the rape law must be gender-neutral. “Male rape is far too prevalent to be termed as an anomaly or a freak incident. By not having gender-neutral rape laws, we are denying a lot more men justice than is commonly thought,” the petition said.

No legal recourse

The plea said that in India, sexual crimes against boys under 18 years are covered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), but once they turn adults they do not have any legal recourse.

“It becomes very difficult to accept that there is a single reality in rape; that is, men rape women and men can never be victimised, or if they are, this act has a meaning so different for men that it cannot be labelled as rape,” the petition said adding, “recognition of male victimisation does not undermine the notion of patriarchy; it merely acknowledges that sexual coercion can also, in a minority of cases, exist in other contexts.”

The plea also referred to the Supreme Court ruling on the Right to Privacy, to argue that both male and female have equal protection of law under the Constitution.

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Printable version | Jul 10, 2020 7:25:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/will-rape-law-be-ever-made-gender-neutral-asks-hc/article24393847.ece

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