In response to a petition before Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Home Affairs has stated its support for keeping the rape laws in the country in favour of women.
The petition challenged the constitutional validity of sections 375 & 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), seeking to make these sections gender-neutral. It was taken up by a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and justice V Kameswar Rao.
Centre has stated in its response that rape laws cannot be made gender-neutral because of the perpetrators of the offence are overwhelmingly males and that even globally, offences like sexual harassment are predominantly perpetrated on a woman by a man.
The affidavit states that “after due deliberations at various levels including various stakeholders and women groups, Section 375 was decided to be kept gender specific qua the perpetrator of the offence and the perpetrator is said to be a man”, as reported by The Hindustan Times.
The Centre also said that other sections like 498a, which provides for prosecution of a husband or a relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, are also gender-specific to ensure the safety of the women. “These sections have been enacted to protect and keep a check on the rising levels of sexual offences against women in India”, it added.
Countering the Centre’s affidavit, a plea filed by advocate Sanjeev Kkumaar, boys below the age of 18 are safeguarded under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. However, there is no guarantee of their safety once they cross the age, following which they “are robbed of their rights”.
The public interest litigation (PIL) cited the Supreme Court ruling that had stated that “consent” is intrinsic to the Right of Privacy and Bodily Integrity, Human Dignity and personhood.
The plea was filed by advocate Kkumaar in light of the grotesque murder of a minor boy at a private school in Gurugram where he was found dead in the washroom with his throat slit. Investigations later revealed that sodomy was attempted on the boy.
Responding to the advocate’s plea, in its affidavit, the Centre asserted that a similar petition was filed before the Supreme Court and was dismissed and therefore the petition is devoid of merit.