Rape is a criminal offence defined in most countries as forcible sexual relations with a person against that person’s will. It is the commission of unlawful sexual intercourse or unlawful sexual intrusion. Sexual intercourse between an adult and a minor is known as statutory rape. Rape can also occur within a marriage. There are no boundaries of the sexes as both men and women can be perpetrator and victim.
Statistics from Reuters give a picture of the worrying and frightening instances of rape in India. According to Reuters, more than 133,000 rape cases were pending in Indian courts by the end of 2016. Out of 39,000 reported cases in 2016, about 40% of the victims are children. The States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra had the highest instances of reported rape cases.
These statistics are worrying but they are only the tip of a very ugly iceberg. Many rape cases go unreported due to fear of retaliation and humiliation.
The imbalanced sex ratio in the country is given as a possible reason for the high number of rape cases. The men outnumber the women by a significant margin due to the society’s preference for male children.
Patriarchy is also an issue and rape is seen as a tool used by men to overpower and dominate women.
The 2012 Delhi Gang Rape case led to legal reform in regards to rape. The laws and policies were improved and there was imposition of harsher penalties on rapists. The most important change was that in the new laws, physical struggle between the perpetrator and the victim is no longer a required qualifier for rape.
Unfortunately, the police and the criminal justice system are yet to catch up and only about 4 cases of rape end up in conviction.
Despite the amendments in the laws and increased reporting of incidences, rape still remains a major problem for India.
Perhaps a holistic approach can provide a solution. From education about rape and that NO means NO to the strengthening of enforcement and the judiciary.