Are we so insensitive as a society to recognize that young boys need protection from sexual abuse?
In response to the increasing public outrage against rising cases of rapes and sexual abuse against women, the government has finally passed the Criminal Amendment Bill, 2018 in Lok Sabha. Certain amendments have been made by the law in the Indian Penal Code, 1860 on the punishment related to offenses against women.
The bill proposes an increase in the minimum punishment for rape from 7 to 10 years with possible application of life imprisonment and the imposition of fines. Further, the punishment for rape of a female minor under the age of 12 has been extended to a minimum imprisonment of 20 years which can be extended to life imprisonment and fine to cover the medical and rehabilitation costs incurred to the victim. The law has also allowed courts to impose the death penalty in case of rape of girls under the age of 12. The Section 14 of the law also mandates that the police must complete the investigation within two months in the case of rape of a female child.
While allowing the death penalty for rape of a minor female, the Criminal Amendment Bill has conveniently ignored male minors from its preview. This outright discrimination is completely opposed to the right to equality granted under the Constitution. In fact, the Indian law is significantly lagging in protecting boys from the menace of rape and sexual assault.
According to a survey conducted by the Government of India in 2007, regarding child sexual abuse reported that more than 50 percent of child victims of some form of sexual abuse were boys. Unfortunately, the male victims do not even get recognition of their abuse, let alone justice for the crime committed against them. The Ministry of Women and Child Development conveniently ignores issues of young boys.
Are we so insensitive as a society to recognize that young boys need protection too? And the crimes against them are as heinous as crimes against young girls? Why in the 21st century we have a law that mandates punishment for offenses based on the gender of the victim rather than the gravity and heinousness of the crime.
I think it is time for us to demand equality, not just as a meaningless phrase in the Constitution, but as a practice in every piece of law.