In 2013, following the Nirbhaya rape case, the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance 2013 passed by Union Cabinet considered rape to be a gender-neutral crime. However, it was scrapped due to difference in opinion and rape was, once again, ordianed to be a gender-specific crime.
In 2017, social activist Sanjjiiv Kkumaar filed a petition that challenged the constitutionality of Sections 375 and 376 of the IPC as they were not ‘gender neutral’. It said, “Gender neutrality is a simple recognition of reality—men sometimes fall victim to the same, or at least very similar, acts to those suffered by women. Male rape is far too prevalent to be termed an anomaly or freak incident. By not having gender-neutral rape laws, we are denying a lot more men justice than is commonly thought.”
On Friday, senior lawyer and Parliamentarian KTS Tulsi introduced a private members bill before the Rajya Sabha. The bill proposed amendments to make criminal laws pertaining to sexual offences gender neutral. Speaking to India Today TV, he said, “Law needs to be balanced. The balance has been disturbed. All sexual offences should be gender neutral. Men, women, and other genders can be perpetrators and victims of these offences. Men, women and others need to be protected.”
What is Gender Neutral Rape Law?
Section 375 of the IPC, 1860, doesn’t recognise non-consensual sexual assault inflicted on a man by a woman, on a woman by a woman, on a man by another man, or on transgender by another transgender or a man or woman.
Why do we need Gender Neutral Rape Law?
In a 2018 interview to The News Minute, Grace Banu, a transgender activist said, “Sexual assault and harassment is something trans women, and also gender nonconforming children, face regularly. But such incidents deter them from complaining. Trans people and gender nonconforming children face problems similar to that of women. We want a separate law which also ensures stricter punishment to the guilty”
The number of women suffering sexual assault is higher than men, but several men, trans and gender non-conforming people are sexual assault victims too. So, in the absence of a gender neutral rape law, they are left with no legal recourse. If the bill proposed by KTS Tulsi is passed, it will not only allow everyone to file a complaint against their abusers, but, in several cases, it’ll also help them recognise the nature of the offence and define it.