INTRODUCTION: “Rape” is a barbarous act committed by a man to demonstrate his male superiority over a woman in order to fulfill his ego, lust, and desire, which not only compromises the victim’s bodily but also mental integrity.
Sexual violence against women affects women of all ages and socioeconomic classes, as well as women of all races, faiths, and ethnicities, all over the world. It is almost entirely committed by guys. It is the world’s most widespread violation of human rights today. It takes many forms, both subtle and overt, and has a significant impact on development. It is so firmly ingrained in civilizations all throughout the world that it is almost imperceptible.
Whatever the circumstances or where a woman was at the time, any non-consensual act done against her was not her fault. She should believe in herself and never give up hope. The law will ensure that the perpetrator is held accountable for his actions.
WHY IS A MEDICAL EXAMINATION IMPORTANT?: The survivor must have a medical checkup to-
- examine for probable physical injuries and their treatment.
- assist in preventing unintended pregnancies and conducting pregnancy tests.
- screen for STDs and treat infections if they are discovered.
- Discuss the effects of rape on a survivor’s well-being, such as feeling depressed or suicidal, sleeping and eating patterns, and anxiety levels.
- If the survivor requires time off from work, school, or college, offer a medical certificate.
AIM OF THE MEDICAL EXAMINATION: The purpose of the medical examination is to-
- Medically assess and treat physical injuries, as well as assess, treat, and prevent pregnancy and STDs.
- Gather forensic evidence that the police can utilize against the rapist in court.
- Psychological assessment.
- Psychological assistance.
WHAT SHOULD A SURVIVOR DO TO PREPARE FOR HER MEDICAL EXAM?: The survivor should strive to stay away from activities that could potentially destroy evidence, such as-
- using the restroom
- Changing your clothes
- Combing your hair
- Cleaning your vaginal/anal area
HOW CAN A RAPE SURVIVOR BE HELPED BY A LAWYER?: Family members, friends, and police officers frequently react negatively or in a judgmental manner. These reactions are likely to obstruct recovery following a sexual assault, so a lawyer, who is just another human being with a special skill set of legal knowledge, can understand, comfort, find legal remedies, counsel, and assist the survivor by identifying different ways for the survivor to overcome the trauma while pursuing the matter legally. A lawyer can also provide comfort to the survivor while serving as a support system.
A lawyer can assist the victim in one of two situations-
When the victim notifies the police immediately after the crime– The lawyer can explain the legal ramifications and the charges (legal sections) that must be imposed on the rapist. Furthermore, the lawyer can properly design the complaint and recount the incident in writing for the survivor, ensuring that no legal requirements are overlooked.
When the survivor is unable to notify the police after the crime– In these cases, the role of a lawyer becomes critical, as the lawyer can assist the victim in understanding the legal laws while also drafting a suitable legal complaint against the rapist/s. The lawyer can also assist the survivor with her safety and take further precautions in this regard.
WHAT IS RAPE UNDER INDIAN LAW?: The term ‘rape’ is defined in two parts in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
- non-consensual, i.e. forced penetration of any orifice, such as the vaginal, anal, mouth, or urethra, by a male in a woman, or
- non-consensual, i.e. a guy touching any orifice with his mouth without consent. This is not simply about having sex without consent. In fact, forcing a woman to do this to herself or with another person is also a form of rape.
In addition to the foregoing, the court has complete discretion in determining whether a sexual act by a man on a woman is rape if-
- it occurs without her consent and will, i.e. when sex is forced, or
- the woman agrees, but only because she or someone she knows is in danger, or
- the woman agrees but believes the man is her husband, or
- the woman agrees, but only after she has been drugged, or
- the woman agrees, or
- The woman agrees, although she suffers from mental illness, or
- If the lady agrees but is under the age of 18, it makes no difference whether she consented or not. Sex with a minor is always rape, or rape with a minor is always rape with a minor.
- The lady is incapable of indicating whether she is authorized or not—for example, if she is unconscious and oblivious of her surroundings.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE CRIMINAL LAW?: The following are the penalties for rapists under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860-
- The minimum sentence for rape has been increased from seven years to ten years, with the possibility of life imprisonment.
- In cases of rape involving females under the age of 16, the minimum sentence has been increased to 20 years from ten years, with the possibility of life imprisonment.
- Gang rape of a girl under the age of 16 will almost always result in life imprisonment.
- Rape of a girl under the age of 12 years will result in a sentence of 20 years in jail, life in prison, or death, as determined by the Court.
- Gang rape of a girl under the age of 12 years will result in either life imprisonment or the death penalty.
FAST TRACK INVESTIGATION AND TRIAL:
- The investigation of rape cases is now limited to two months from the time the incident is reported.
- The time restriction for completing a rape case trial has also been set at two months from the time the offence was reported.
- The time limit for deciding rape appeals has been increased to six months.
LIMITATION ON GETTING BAIL:
- Under the modified law, no anticipatory bail will be given to a man or men charged with rape or gang rape of a girl under the age of 16.
- Before ruling on the accused’s bail applications in cases of rape of a girl under the age of 16, the court is required to give the Public Prosecutor and the survivor’s representative a 15-day notice.
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