Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. Yet, a large number of cases go unreported because of the stigma associated with it for the victim. India has a complex social system and more often than not, the victim can feel that the rape was their fault and reporting the case is futile. If you or anyone you know have been a victim, here are some important things in this regard.
When should you file a complaint against rape?
To fall into the category of rape, intercourse should have been carried out without the victim’s consent or with consent gained by unlawful means. However, this does not include consent given by a minor (any girl under 18 year of age) or consent given under intoxication. Any intercourse with a girl under the age of 18 is rape, in accordance with the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses) Act. As per the current laws, marital rape is not considered an offence.
If a woman has been the victim of a rape, under the current legislation,
- It is mandatory for all government and private hospitals to give the rape victim free first aid and medical care. The hospital is to treat the victim and collect evidence on whether the victim wants to report the rape or not.
- You need not worry about disclosure of your identity to others as the rape victim’s identity cannot be revealed under any circumstances, by the hospital, police or the media.
- The FIR must be recorded by a woman police officer or any woman officer.
- Every investigation in such a case must be completed without any delay and a report must be submitted to the magistrate.
- If you decide to report the case, the Police must file a complete FIR immediately and inform you of your right to legal counsel, even if the request for registration is untimely as there are many reasons why a woman might not want to report it immediately. A copy of the FIR will be given to the complainant free of cost.
- Usually, an FIR must be filed in a police station which is in the area of the crime committed. However, a rape victim can file a complaint at any police station all over the country. This is called Zero FIR rule.
- A medical examination of the victim is mandatory and must be done by either a registered medical practitioner in a government-run facility. If not available, then any other registered practitioner may carry out the examination with the woman’s consent.
- With the numerous fast-track courts around the country, a rape hearing can take anywhere from several months to several years. However, this should not deter you from taking action as justice should be served, for both the victim and the perpetrator.
- There are several helplines and cells where rape victims can find help. For example, the Delhi government has started a Rape Crisis Cell that operates 24X7 all round the year (23370557) and a Women in Distress Helpline (181).
The punishments for rape are:
- In case of non-aggravated assaults, not less than 7 years and can extend to life imprisonment, along with a fine.
- In case of aggravated assaults, not less than 10 years and can extend to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
- In case of death or permanent vegetative state of the victim as a result of the rape, not less than 20 years of imprisonment and can extend to life imprisonment or the death penalty.
- In case of in intercourse with a minor girl, a minimum of 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.
- A minor boy who has intercourse with a minor girl could be sent to a juvenile home for 3 years.