The Delhi High Court bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and justice V Kameswar Rao, during the hearing of a plea seeking to make rape laws in India gender-neutral, has been informed by the Centre that rape laws cannot be made gender-neutral because even globally, offences like rape and sexual harassment are mostly committed by a man on a woman.
The ministry of home affairs had filed the reply in response to a PIL, filed by advocate Sanjjiv Kkumaar, which challenged the constitutional validity of rape laws (sections 375 & 376) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) seeking to make these sections gender-neutral. In India, rape laws being gender-specific i.e an FIR under these sections cannot be registered against a woman, the petitioner had filed the plea after an incident in which later investigations had revealed that the minor boy who was found dead with his throat slit in the washroom at a private school in Gurugram was also victim of a sodomy attempt.
Invoking the privacy judgment, in which that the Supreme Court had ruled that “consent” is inherent to the Right of Privacy and Bodily Integrity, personhood and Human Dignity, it was thus submitted by the petitioner that while the interests of minor boys are protected under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, they “are robbed of their rights” once they come of age.
In its reply to the plea, the Centre has said, “...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," adding that, “Further, globally offences like sexual harassment along with other offences like voyeurism or stalking are predominantly perpetrated by a man on a woman. These sections have been enacted to protect and keep a check on the rising levels of sexual offences against women in India.”
Further, the Centre has also referred to other sections like 498A, which provides for prosecution of a husband or a relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, being gender-specific to ensure the safety of the women. Finally, the Centre has contended that the current petition is devoid of merit and should be dismissed as the Supreme Court had dismissed a similar petition which was filed before it.