Rape laws loaded against men: Lawyers


Rape laws loaded against men: Lawyers

MUMBAI: The recent incident where a South African woman cried rape against a fellow national only to retract her charge later has exposed the grey 
areas in India’s rape laws, say lawyers and police officers.

The accused, a reputed high court judge, had to cool his heels in prison for three days and had his reputation shot to pieces, until the allegations were withdrawn. Last year,Mumbai bank executive Porus Mistry was slapped with charges when his colleague alleged rape on the grounds that he had had a threeyear sexual relationship with her by making false promises.

Members of the legal community and sections of the police feel that the prevailing rape laws are “lopsided and loaded against men’’ and need to be modified. Former union law minister Ram Jethmalani, commenting on the rape laws, once said in a courtroom, “Before I could go to bed with a woman, I would have to call a notary public.’’

The Indian Penal Code defines rape as intercourse without consent or against will. The most obvious drawback in the law is that it does not differentiate between rape and technical rape, said senior police officer Y. P. Singh.

“Except for a few violent rape cases where brutal force is used most other cases involve some degree of consensual sex,’’ said Mr Singh.

According to him, rape charges have be known to be made by women who have been jilted and by minor girls who have had a consensual relationship with older men.Commercial sex workers have also pressed rape charges against clients after being shortchanged. There have also been cases of women crying “rape’’ when they’re caught in the act.

“In several instances, women have exploited the law by claiming that they were not willing for intercourse but consented only out of fear,’’ said counsel P. R. Vakil.

Added criminal lawyer Shrikant Bhatt, “Under the existing rape laws, if the woman states before the court that she did not consent to intercourse then the court presumes that she did not consent.’’

The law puts the burden of proof on the accused,who has to show evidence that the intercourse was with the woman’s consent. This, says Mr Bhatt, is utterly absurd and impractical. “More so, because the accused has to sometimes prove this several years after the incident,’’ he said.

Mr Bhatt, however, also blamed the police for acting hastily on rape complaints and damaging the reputation of innocent men beyond repair.

He said that the police often arrest the accused without an inquiry even when the law specifically states that the accused’s custody should be sought only if “there are grounds to believe that the accusation or information is well-founded’’.

Police officers, on their part, claimed that they are always under intense pressure to show results on rape complaints. “The police would have been lynched by women rights activists and the media had they not acted promptly in the recent rape case,’’ observed former police commissioner A.S. Samra. “Men have to bear the brunt of this haste.’’

Women rights activists and lawyers, however, counter these claims. “Most rape cases reported are genuine,’’ said activist Sheela Barse,qualifying that the recent case involving the South African woman was an isolated one which should not be interpreted as a new trend.

“It is not true that rape laws are loaded against men,’’ said activist-lawyer Mihir Desai. “In fact, the government should further refine the rape laws by including marital rape which, at present, is not considered a crime in the eyes of the law.’’

In the US, date rape or acquaintance rape is treated as rape. The same legal remedies and consequences apply to the victims and perpetrators of these rapes as apply to stranger rapes.

Former union law minister Ram Jethmalani, commenting on the rape laws, once said in a courtroom, “Before I could go to bed with a woman, I would have to call a notary public’’ 



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