A Close Examination Of The Rape Amendment Law And Its Entailments For The “Other” Community

Posted on July 27, 2012 in Gender-Based Violence

By Subhayan Mukerjee:

The Indian culture is unique, if slightly skewed, as compared to cultures in the West. Over the years, the culture that we are accustomed to today, developed in a niche. It has borrowed much from the West, yet stuck to its primordial origins.

One thing, however, that has always been much talked about while discussing Indian culture is the position that women occupy. The fact that women have been sidelined as our culture developed through the ages is nothing new. We’ve read about sati in our history books. We’ve seen how averse our society was to women’s education and empowerment. And, of course, we have read about people like Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, who pioneered crusades to change these social evils.

Much as people have tried to make amends, our society has resisted this change. Today we are lot more liberal towards women, but several atrocities continue to happen across our country that shows how disadvantageous their position still is. This includes the ever increasing rates of crime against women and domestic abuse, which always have been, and still remain a serious concern.

The Government has been relentless in its efforts of bringing the stricken female community up to par with the rest. There have been special quotas for women in government offices, higher exemptions in matters related to the income tax, increased empowerment for young school girls. But these still seem to be quite less when pitted against the seemingly infinite array of cases that spring up now and then.

Or is it?

The definition of the word “rape” was redefined in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill last year to include not just sexual crimes against women, but also those against men. Though this might seem to be something “funny” at the first glance, it does lead to a lot of startling developments in the present scenario, if the bill indeed becomes a law. The question that is on everyone’s minds right now, is what the implications of this bill might really be?

First, is the position of the women in Indian society indeed so secure that we can afford to divert our attention to this newer issue at hand? Crimes against women far outnumber those against men, and our legal tools really aren’t good enough to deal with the former. Can we really take the challenge to set both these issues straight with this single legislation?

Secondly, if consensual sex between men has been legalized in our country, shouldn’t sex between men which is not consensual be outlawed? What legal facilities does our country provide to safeguard the rights of the LGBT community when they are faced with such a dilemma? Their position in society, despite several recent legislation favoring them, is still on slippery grounds. They are a source of jest and laughter even with the police – as a result of which they find it difficult and shameful to escalate their own issues.

Thus their position needs to be made more “consolidated” and secure. How can this happen? We are not too sure.

Enough laws have been made to protect the rights of the LGBT community. Will more laws help? Laws, after all, exist on paper – and their breaching can only be officially addressed in courts. But what really instills the humanitarian sense behind a law in a person? Our country agrees that the LGBT community need their interests to be safeguarded. But this agreement is on paper – in the form of laws that our Parliament has passed. Does this mean that our country actually believes that that is how it should be? Millions of the masses still look at the LGBT community with contempt and prejudice. What can change this?

Education might be a crucial tool here; education at the very basic level of the primary school. It will indeed be difficult to change the perceptions of the majority of the (largely uneducated) masses. However, if the future generations are ingrained with these ideas at the very beginning of their school lives, then this might just help in the grander scope of things.

Till then however, our country will remain stuck in a sick cesspool, where a few kurta-clad old men will sit in air conditioned rooms, sip cups of tea and pass hollow legislations, while hoping for the best.