Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Rape: Legal Issues in Mental Health Perspective

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Rape: Legal Issues in Mental Health Perspective

Article excerpt

Byline: R. Jiloha

Rape of women by men has occurred throughout recorded history and across cultures and religions. It is a crime against basic human right and a most common crime against women in India. In this article, rape is discussed from legal and mental health perspective. In India 'rape laws' began with enactment of Indian Penal Code in 1860. There have been subsequent amendments and the main issue of focus remained the definition of 'rape and inclusion of 'marital rape' in the ambit of rape. Law Commission Reports related to rape and the psychological impacts of rape have been discussed.


Rape is the most gruesome and barbaric act of violating bodily integrity and honor of a woman. It destroys the entire physical and mental composure and pushes the victim into a deep emotional crisis and reduces her to a living corpse. [sup][1] It is a crime against basic human rights one is entitled to and a clear violation of the Right to Life enshrined in Article 21 of our Constitution. [sup][2]

Rape in India is one of the most common crimes against women [sup][3] and a serious national problem. [sup][4] While per-capita reported incidents are quite low compared with other countries, [sup][5] a new case is reported every 20 minutes. [sup][6],[7] According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 24,206 rape cases were registered in India in 2011, although experts believe that the number of unreported cases is much higher. [sup][8] Children are more vulnerable to this crime and more than 7200 children are raped each year in India. [sup][9] A survey reveals that the vast majority of children in India are physically abused and such occurrences are disturbingly common. [sup][10]

Historical Perspective

Historically, " Raptus , " the generic term of rape was to imply violent theft, applied to both property and person in the Roman culture. It was synonymous with abduction and a woman's abduction or sexual assault, was merely the theft of a woman against the consent of her guardian or those with legal power over her. The harm, ironically, was treated as a wrong against her father or husband, women being wholly owned subsidiaries. [sup][11] Although Roman law in the historical period recognized rape as a crime, the rape of women is a pervasive theme in the myths and legends of early Rome. [sup][12] Rape in the English sense of "forced sex" was more often expressed as stuprum , a sex crime committed through violence or coercion ( cum vi or per vim ). [sup][13]

Rape as an adjunct to warfare, dates back to antiquity when mass rape of women as a punitive measure committed by the armies after forcibly entering a town was taken by Greek, Persian, or Roman troops. [sup][14] Rape, as an adjunct to warfare, was prohibited by the military codices of subsequent rulers and this prohibition formed the basis for convicting and executing rapists during the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453). [sup][15]

In some cultures, rape was seen less as a crime against a particular woman than as a crime against the head of the household or against chastity. As a consequence, the rape of a virgin was often a more serious crime than of a nonvirgin, even a wife or widow, and the rape of a prostitute or other unchaste woman was, in some laws, not a crime because her chastity was not harmed. Furthermore, the woman's consent was under many legal systems not a defense. In 17 [sup]th -century France, even marriage without parental consent was classified as rape. [sup][16] The penalty for rape was often a fine, payable to the father or the husband whose "goods" were "damaged." [sup][17]

In Islamic criminal jurisprudence, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that there is no punishment for a woman forced to have sex. [sup][18] According to a Sunnihadith, the punishment for committing rape is death, there is no sin on the victim, nor is there any worldly punishment ascribed to her. …

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