Custodial Rape in India by Ananya Rajput

We live in a sphere of duality with regards to its perception of women. On one hand, we represent women as mighty goddesses who are worshipped for their strength and valor and on the other hand, we subjugate them and push them to the margins of society. Where her existence is subjected to the receiving end of a system that tells her there is an in-built hierarchy in which her life will always be worth less than a man.

We live in a society where a girl child is not allowed to live her life, just because she is a girl. A society where the government had to ban sex determination services in 1983 to ensure that people don’t penalize a girl child for her existence. This systematic oppression of women is so deep-rooted in the system that it starts playing out before she is even born, and ensures that even if she does get to live, it won’t be one without institutional biases and partialities. This is evident from the fact that India has one of the leading rates for crimes against women. Whether it be sexual assault, rape, or female infanticide, all of it can be traced back to the marginalization of women.

As shameful as it is, rape culture is woven into the very fabric of society. This fact makes it extremely difficult for any legal reforms or measures to be implemented to its fullest potential because the real problem here is the mindset people that pass on from generation to generation

The perception of how rape is viewed has evolved over the years. It has gone from viewing it as unwanted sex to an extremely traumatic event that alters the life of the survivor. And this perception has also defined how much research has gone into understanding what goes on within the mind of a rape victim and how the psychological scars deeply embed themselves to cause many more problems years after the sickening deed has taken place.

The most commonly experienced feelings are those of guilt, shame, and disgust. All these can be traced back to how a victim is made to feel like it is their fault. People point fingers saying it is something they did, something they wore, etc. and how they are viewed as impure. Societal perceptions play a very big role in how the victim processes the situation. So, when we are living in a society where the first reaction of people is to point fingers at the victim, then it doesn’t help the victim much in trying to deal with the situation. People like to believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. So when one hears of a bad thing that happened, their first response is to list out a bunch of societally deemed “bad” behaviors to reinforce this idea and subconsciously reassure themselves that it would never happen to them.

The relationship between the perpetrator and victim in cases of custodial rape is the one where the perpetrator already casts an undue influence over the victim. Therefore, rape under such circumstances poses an even greater threat to the victim and leaves her under immense trauma since the police officer not only violates her bodily integrity but also his duty to care and protect her. The seriousness of the custodial rape had already been recognized by legislators since the minimum punishment for rape in police custody was more than other cases of rape. A minimum of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment existed in cases of custodial rape in comparison to the 7 years of minimum imprisonment in cases of rape by ordinary man.

However, after the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, the minimum punishment for rape in other cases was also brought at par with the offence of custodial rape. Therefore, in the light of recent events of increasing crimes in police custody, there arises an urgent need to enhance the minimum imprisonment limit in these special cases as in criminal jurisprudence it is understood that the sentence prescribed for an offence often indicates the seriousness with which law treats the offence. Furthermore, easy channels to report such crime and lodge complaints must be introduced to ensure those police officials are prosecuted for the same. Not only must the amendments be launched but it must also be ensured that they are being implemented at the ground level.

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