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Beyond the Binary: Rethinking Gender Neutrality in Indian Rape Law

  • Harshad PATHAK (a1)

Abstract

Despite expanding the definition of rape under the Indian Penal Code to include non-penile-vaginal acts of penetration, the said definition continues to conform to a gender-specific notion of rape, based on a predetermined characterization of the victim-perpetrator framework on the basis of their genders. Herein, I will critique this idea of gender specificity in Indian rape law on the grounds that it reinforces a binary notion of gender, and results in gross underinclusion. Instead, it is more appropriate to adopt a human-rights-based approach in defining the offence of rape, and negate the role of gender in identifying the victims and perpetrators of an act of rape. The argument is pillared on a state’s obligation to not discriminate on the basis of sex, the recognition of transgender rights, and an assessment of the common grounds for opposing gender neutrality in Indian rape law.

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Footnotes

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BA, LLB (Hons) (National Law University – Delhi). The author is formerly an Associate in the Dispute Resolution practice at Luthra & Luthra Law Offices in Delhi. In September 2016, he will take part in the LLM in International Dispute Settlement (MIDS) programme, run by the Geneva University Law School and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. I am grateful to Associate Professor Mrinal Satish at the National Law University, Delhi, for his guidance, and to my colleagues, Ms Divya Srinivasan and Mr Pratyush Panjwani, for their constant encouragement and willingness to discuss with me the arguments that I have attempted to engage with herein.

Footnotes

References

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1. KELLY, John, “I’m a Survivor of Rape and Intimate Partner Violence–And I’m a Man” TIME (2 July 2014), online: TIME <http://time.com/2951196/male-rape-survivor>.

2. Partners for Law in Development (PLD), “Comments by Laxmi Murthy to Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2000” at 3, online: PLD <http://pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Comments-by-Laxmi-Murthy-to-Criminal-Law-Amendment-Bill-2000.pdf> [PLD, “Comments by Laxmi Murthy”].

3. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (India), s 375.

4. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (India), s 9.

5. STOKES, John, “India’s Law Should Recognize that Men Can Be Raped Too” Scroll.in (11 September 2014), online: Scroll.in <http://scroll.in/article/676510/India’s-law-should-recognise-that-men-can-be-raped-too>.

6. VIPRA, Jai, “A Case for Gender Neutral Rape Laws in India” (2013) Centre for Civil Society Working Paper No 286 1 at 7 .

7. National Legal Services Authority v Union of India 2014(5) SCALE 1 [NALSA].

8. Section 375 of the IPC has been amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983 (India), the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 (India), and finally the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (India). Though the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 (India) also sought to amend Section 375, the said Bill never came to be passed by the Parliament of India.

9. PLD, “Background to Discussions by Women’s Groups on Sexual Assault Amendments (2001-2010)” (29 March 2010) at 11, online: PLD <http://pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Background-to-discussions-by-womens-groups-to-sexual-assault-amendments.pdf>.

10. Sudesh Jhaku v K C Jhaku 1998 Cri LJ 2428.

11. Ibid at para 29.

12. LEGRAND, Camille E, “Rape and Rape Laws: Sexism in Society and the Law” (1973) 61(3) California Law Review 919 at 941 (quoted in ibid at para 29).

13. Sakshi v Union of India (1999) 6 SCC 591 [Sakshi].

14. Law Commission of India, 172nd Report: Review of Rape Laws (New Delhi: Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India, 2000) at para 7.2.

15. Ibid at para 3.1.

16. Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 (India), s 5.

17. Parliamentary Standing Committee, 167th Report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 (New Delhi: Rajya Sabha Secretariat, 2013) at 43 .

18. Ibid at 81.

19. The Wilson Center, “Opening Statement by Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising to the Verma Committee” The Wilson Center (15 October 2013), online: The Wilson Center <https://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/1Event%20Summary%20and%20Statement%20by%20Indira%20Jaising%20to%20Verma%20Committee.pdf>.

20. See Justice Verma (Retd) Committee, Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law (New Delhi: Justice Verma (Retd) Committee, 2013) [JVC, Report].

21. Ibid at 111, para 67.

22. Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013 (India), s 8.

23. “Activists Join Chorus Against Gender Neutral Rape Laws” The Times of India (7 March 2013).

24. MENON, Nivedita, “Gender Just, Gender Sensitive, Not Gender Neutral Rape Laws” Kafila (8 March 2013), online: Kafila <http://kafila.org/2013/03/08/gender-just-gender-sensitive-not-gender-neutral-rape-laws/> [Menon, “Gender Just Laws”].

25. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (India), s 9.

26. I specifically use the word “queer”, instead of an alternative reference, because it denotes whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, and the dominant, and demarcates a positionality vis-à-vis the normative. See NARRAIN, Arvind, “The Articulation of Rights Around Sexuality and Health: Subaltern Queer Cultures in India in the Era of Hindutva” (2004) 7(2) Health and Human Rights Journal 142 at 144-145 (quoting HALPERIN, David M, Saint=Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) at 62 ).

27. “India’s Progress on Rape Law Throws Transgender People Under the Bus” 429Magazine (22 April 2013), online: 429Magazine <http://dot429.com/articles/1965-india-s-progress-on-rape-law-throws-transgender-people-under-the-bus>.

28. Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (India), s 9.

29. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (India), s 375, as amended by ibid, s 9.

30. Sakshi v Union of India AIR 2004 SC 3566.

31. Ibid at para 22.

32. Rafiq v State of UP (1980) 4 SCC 262.

33. Ibid at paras 6 and 9.

34. Bharwada Hirjibhai v State of Gujarat (1983) 3 SCC 217.

35. Ibid at para 10.

36. State of MP v Madanlal Criminal Appeal No 231 of 2015.

37. Ibid at para 16.

38. See Note, “Forcible and Statutory Rape: An Exploration of the Operation and Objectives of the Consent Standard” (1952) 62(1) Yale Law Journal 55 at 80.

39. See, for instance, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (India), s 114A.

40. See, for instance, State of Punjab v Gurmit Singh 1996 (2) SCC 384: “The court must also ensure that cross-examination is not made a means of harassment or causing humiliation to the victim of crime”.

41. JVC, Report, supra note 20 at 83, para 27 and 94, para 38.

42. Bodhisatwa v Ms Subhra Chakraborty (1996) 1 SCC 490.

43. Ibid at para 10.

44. The Chairman, Railway Board v Mrs Chandrima Das (2000) 2 SCC 465.

45. Ibid at para 12.

46. Vishaka v State of Rajasthan (1997) 6 SCC 241.

47. Ibid at para 3.

48. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (India).

49. Ibid at Preamble.

50. While the gender specificity of the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 can be questioned on the grounds put forth herein, the same involves a consideration of additional contextual factors that are beyond the scope of this paper.

51. MILLER, Alice, “Sexuality, Violence Against Women and Human Rights: Women Make Demands and Ladies Get Protection” (2004) 7(2) Health and Human Rights Journal 16 at 21 .

52. UN DESA, Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women (New York: UN Division for the Advancement of Women, 2010) at 26 .

53. Ibid at 26.

54. BRONIT, Simon and MISRA, Ashutosh, “Reforming Sexual Offences in India: Lessons in Human Rights and Comparative Law” (2014) 2(1) Griffith Asia Quarterly 37 at 51 .

55. BILDER, Richard B, “Rethinking International Human Rights: Some Basic Questions” (1969) 1 Wisconsin Law Review 171 at 205 .

56. Constitution of India, art 21 [Indian Constitution].

57. MILLER, Alice and VANCE, Carole, “Sexuality, Human Rights, and Health” (2004) 7(2) Health and Human Rights Journal 5 at 9 .

58. JVC, Report, supra note 20 at 2, para 4.

59. Ibid at 3, para 7.

60. RUMNEY, Phil, “In Defence of Gender Neutrality Within Rape” (2007) 6(1) Seattle Journal for Social Justice 481 at 481 .

61. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GA Res 217(III), UNGAOR, 3rd Sess, Supp No 13, UN Doc A/810 (1948) 71, art 2 [emphasis added].

62. Ibid, art 7 [emphasis added].

63. Ibid, art 8 [emphasis added].

64. KAPUR, Ratna and COSSMAN, Brenda, “On Women, Equality and the Constitution: Through the Looking Glass of Feminism” in Nivedita MENON, ed, Gender and Politics in India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1999), 197 at 199-200 (quoting SINGH, Parmanand, “Equal Opportunity and Compensatory Discrimination: Constitutional Policy and Judicial Control” (1976) 18(2) Journal of the Indian Law Institute 300 at 301 ).

65. SHENOY, Deepti, “Courting Substantive Equality: Employment Discrimination Law in India” (2013) 34(3) University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law 611 at 619 .

66. MACKINNON, Catharine Alice, “Sex Equality Under the Constitution of India: Problems, Prospects, and ‘Personal Laws’” (2006) 4(2) International Journal of Constitutional Law 181 at 188 .

67. Indian Constitution, supra note 56, art 14.

68. Ibid, art 15(1).

69. Ibid, art 15(3).

70. Ministry of Education & Social Welfare, Government of India, Towards Equality: Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (New Delhi: Ministry of Education & Social Welfare, Government of India, 1974) at 3 .

71. MacKinnnon, supra note 66 at 189.

72. See Penal Code (Act 574), (Revd 1997) (Malaysia), s 377CA [Malaysian Penal Code]; Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed Sing), s 376(2) [Singapore Penal Code].

73. SCUTT, Jocelynne A, “Reforming the Law of Rape: The Michigan Example” (1976) 50 Australian Law Journal 615 at 617 (quoted in Rumney, supra note 60 at 484).

74. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation Number 19, UN CEDAW, 11th Sess, UN Doc A/47/38 (1992) at para 9.

75. Miller, supra note 51 at 24.

76. National Human Rights Commission, Order Dated 1 April 2002 in Case No 1150/6/2001-2002 (New Delhi: National Human Rights Commission, 2002) at para 20(d)(iii).

77. People v Liberta 64 NY 2d 152 (1984) [Liberta].

78. Ibid at 159 (quoting Penal Code (State of New York), s 130.35).

79. Ibid at Headnotes, para 5.

80. Ibid at Headnotes, para 1.

81. Michael M v Superior Court of Sonoma County 450 US 464 (1981).

82. Ibid at 471.

83. Ibid at 473.

84. Orr v Orr 440 US 268 (1979) [Orr].

85. Ibid at 283.

86. Case of X & Y v The Netherlands (1985) ECHR 4 [Case of X & Y].

87. European Convention on Human Rights, Rome, 4.XI.1950, art 8(1).

88. Case of X & Y, supra note 86 at para 23.

89. Ibid at para 27.

90. Nicholas Toonen v Australia Communication No 488/1992, UN Doc CCPR/C/50/D/488/1992 (1994).

91. Ibid at para 6.11.

92. NALSA, supra note 7 at paras 68 and 77, respectively.

93. Rumney, supra note 60 at 489.

94. BRENNER, Alletta, “Resisting Simple Dichotomies: Critiquing Narratives of Victims, Perpetrators, and Harm in Feminist Theories of Rape” (2013) 36 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 503 at 567 .

95. CHOW, Melinda, “ Smith v. City of Salem: Transgendered Jurisprudence and an Expanding Meaning of Sex Discrimination Under Title VII” (2005) 28 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 207 at 215 .

96. TRAN, Stevie V and GLAZER, Elizabeth M, “Transgenderless” (2012) 35 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 399 at 418 .

97. Miller and Vance, supra note 57 at 8.

98. Supra note 26.

99. Chow, supra note 95 at 207.

100. NALSA, supra note 7 at para 2.

101. Ibid at para 111.

102. Ibid at para 114.

103. Ibid at para 55.

104. Indian Penal Code, 1860 (India), s 377.

105. Ibid, s 376(1).

106. Ibid, s 377.

107. Ibid, s 376A.

108. Malaysian Penal Code, supra note 72, s 377CA.

109. Singapore Penal Code, supra note 72, s 376(2).

110. JVC, Report, supra note 20 at 111, para 67.

111. Ibid at 107, para iv.

112. RUMNEY, Phil and MORGAN-TAYLOR, Martin, “Recognizing the Male Victim: Gender Neutrality and the Law of Rape: Part One” (1997) 26 Anglo-American Law Review 198 at 207-208 (quoting NAFFINE, Ngaire, “Possession: Erotic Love in the Law of Rape” (1994) 57(1) Modern Law Review 10 at 24 ) and 210.

113. AGNES, Flavia, “Law, Ideology and Female Sexuality: Gender Neutrality in Rape Law” (2002) 37(9) Economic and Political Weekly 844 at 844 (quoting BROWNMILLER, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976)).

114. PLD, “Submissions to Justice Verma Committee by All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and Women’s Groups” (4 January 2013) at 4, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-all-india-democratic-women.pdf> [PLD, “AIDWA”]. See also PLD, “Submissions to the Committee headed by Justice J.S. Verma” (5 January 2013) at 1, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-pld-to-justice-verma-committee.pdf>.

115. PLD, “Submissions to the Justice Verma Commission by Jagori” (4 January 2013) at 1, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-jagori.pdf>.

116. PLD, “Submissions to Justice Verma Committee by Lawyers Collective” (January 2013) at 6, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-lawyers-collective.pdf [PLD, “Lawyers Collective”].

117. PLD, “Submissions to Justice Verma Committee by PUCL” (January 2013) at 5, online: PLD <http://pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Submissions-by-PUCL.pdf>.

118. PLD, “Submissions to Justice Verma Committee by Vrinda Grover” (5 January 2013) at 6, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-vrinda-grover.pdf>.

119. PLD, “Submissions to Justice Verma Committee by Women’s Research & Action Group (WRAG), Mumbai” (January 2013) at 3, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-wrag.pdf>.

120. Agnes, supra note 113 at 846.

121. Rumney, supra note 60 at 491.

122. BROWNMILLER, Susan, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (New York: Ballantine, 1975) at 378 .

123. PLD, “Submissions to Justice Verma Committee by Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore” (January 2013) at 2, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/wp-content/uploads/submissions-by-alternative-law-forum.pdf>.

124. COHEN, David S, “Sex Segregation, Masculinities, and Gender-Variant Individuals” in Frank Rudy COOPER, Ann C McGINLEY, and Michael KIMMEL, eds, Masculinities and the Law: A Multidimensional Approach (New York: NYU Press, 2012), 167 at 171 [Cohen, “Sex Segregation”].

125. ADLER, Zsuzsanna, Rape on Trial (London: Macmillan Press, 1987) at 102-120 .

126. JVC, Report, supra note 20 at 78, para 17.

127. Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (India), s 114A.

128. State v Ram Singh & Ors SC No 114/2013 (describing the convicts’ conduct as “beastly”).

129. BARUAH, Amit, “Dealing with ‘Wolves’ and ‘Beasts’” The Hindu (26 April 2014), online: The Hindu <http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/dealing-with-wolves-and-beasts/article5949878.ece>.

130. Orr, supra note 84 at 283.

131. Brenner, supra note 94 at 520.

132. Commonwealth v Berkowitz 641 A2d 1161 (1993).

133. Brenner, supra note 94 at 528.

134. PLD, “Comments by Laxmi Murthy”, supra note 2 at 3.

135. DENNO, Deborah, “Why the Model Penal Code’s Sexual Offense Provisions Should Be Pulled and Replaced” (2004) 1 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 207 at 211 .

136. CONNELL, R W and MESSERSCHMIDT, James W, “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept” (2005) 19(6) Gender & Society 829 at 832 .

137. COHEN, David S, “Keeping Men ‘Men’ and Women Down: Sex Segregation, Anti-Essentialism, and Masculinity” (2010) 33 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 509 at 525 .

138. NOVOTNY, Patricia, “Rape Victims in the Gender Neutral Zone: The Assimilation of Resistance?” (2003) 1 Seattle Journal for Social Justice 743 at 744 .

139. PINO, Nathan W and MEIER, Robert F, “Gender Differences in Rape Reporting” (1999) 40 Sex Roles 979 .

140. KANG, John M, “The Burdens of Manliness” (2010) 33 Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 477 at 477 .

141. Rumney and Morgan-Taylor, supra note 112 at 207.

142. Rumney, supra note 60 at 498-499.

143. JVC, Report, supra note 20 at 11, para 23.

144. MENON, Priya M, “Lacking Support, Male Rape Victims Stay Silent” The Times of India (16 February 2013), online: The Times of India <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/Lacking-support-male-rape-victims-stay-silent/articleshow/18524668.cms> [Menon, “Stay Silent”].

145. KRISHNA, “The Unheard Victims of Violence” The Hindu (3 September 2013), online: The Hindu <http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-unheard-victims-of-violence/article5088311.ece>.

146. Rumney, supra note 60 at 485.

147. See NALSA, supra note 7 at para 55.

148. Suresh Kumar Koushal & Anr v NAZ Foundation & Ors (2014) 1 SCC 1.

149. Ibid at para 43.

150. NARRAIN, Siddharth, “We Dissent” Kafila (12 December 2013), online: Kafila <http://kafila.org/2013/12/12/we-dissent-siddharth-narrain/>.

151. SHEIKH, Danish, “Crimes of Unreason” Kafila (12 December 2013), online: Kafila <http://kafila.org/2013/12/12/crimes-of-unreason-danish-sheikh/>.

152. Liberta, supra note 77 at 169-170.

153. Rumney, supra note 60 at 497.

154. See PLD, “AIDWA”, supra note 114 at 4.

155. NAQVI, Farah, “For the Women of India, Parliament Must Speak” The Hindu (7 March 2013), online: The Hindu <http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/for-the-women-of-india-parliament-must-speak/article4482470.ece>.

156. Agnes, supra note 113 at 847.

157. PLD, “Lawyers Collective”, supra note 116 at 6.

158. GAVEY, Nicola, “Violence Against Women: Beyond Gender Neutrality” (Co-Presented with Alison TOWNS at The Women’s Convention, 3-6 June, 2005, Wellington, New Zealand) at 6 , online: New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse <https://nzfvc.org.nz/sites/nzfvc.../Violenceagainstwomen-neutrality05.doc>.

159. JVC, Report, supra note 20 at 48, para 57.

160. Ibid at 386, para 10 (attributing the quotation to Andrew E Taslitz).

161. Kang, supra note 140 at 507.

162. Menon, “Stay Silent”, supra note 144.

163. Krishna, supra note 145.

164. Cohen, “Sex Segregation”, supra note 124 at 175 (quoting JORDAN, Ellen, “Fighting Boys and Fantasy Play: The Construction of Masculinity in the Early Years of School” (1995) 7(1) Gender and Education 69 at 75 ).

165. TESÓN, Fernando R, “International Human Rights and Cultural Relativism” (1985) 25 Virginia Journal of International Law 869 at 873 .

166. Ibid at 874.

167. See LANE, Eric, “Demanding Human Rights: A Change in the World Legal Order?” (1978) 6 Hofstra Law Review 269 .

168. Agnes, supra note 113 at 844.

169. See Menon, “Gender Just Laws”, supra note 24.

170. UN DESA, supra note 52 at 15.

171. Ibid.

172. Rumney, supra note 60 at 486.

173. Novotny, supra note 138 at 748.

174. Brenner, supra note 94 at 523.

175. Miller and Vance, supra note 57 at 6.

176. NARRAIN, Arvind, “Violation of Bodily Integrity: The Delhi Rape Case Among Others” (2013) 48(1) Economic and Political Weekly 17 at 19 .

177. Ibid at 18 (attributing the term to Susan Brownmiller).

178. Ibid.

179. Denno, supra note 135 at 208.

180. Ibid.

181. Denno, supra note 135 at 210-211 (quoting American Law Institute, The Model Penal Code and Commentaries: (Official Draft and Revised Comments) (Philadelphia: American Law Institute, 1980) at 337 (art 213, s 213.1, cmt 6)).

182. Rumney, supra note 60 at 497.

183. Agnes, supra note 113 at 844.

184. MOONEY, Annabelle, “When a Woman Needs to Be Seen, Heard and Written as a Woman: Rape, Law and an Argument Against Gender Neutral Language” (2006) International Journal for the Semiotics of Law 39 at 42-43 .

185. See PLD, “Feminist Law Archives: Justice Verma Committee 2013”, online: PLD <http://feministlawarchives.pldindia.org/category/sexual-violence/justice-verma-committee/>.

186. I am indebted to Professor Babu Mathew, erstwhile Professor at the National Law University - Delhi for this pithy observation.

* BA, LLB (Hons) (National Law University – Delhi). The author is formerly an Associate in the Dispute Resolution practice at Luthra & Luthra Law Offices in Delhi. In September 2016, he will take part in the LLM in International Dispute Settlement (MIDS) programme, run by the Geneva University Law School and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. I am grateful to Associate Professor Mrinal Satish at the National Law University, Delhi, for his guidance, and to my colleagues, Ms Divya Srinivasan and Mr Pratyush Panjwani, for their constant encouragement and willingness to discuss with me the arguments that I have attempted to engage with herein.

Beyond the Binary: Rethinking Gender Neutrality in Indian Rape Law

  • Harshad PATHAK (a1)

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