Incestuous Rape: Need for Recognition as a Specific Case of Rape

Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, in its present form, treats a rapist father and a rapist stranger on an equal footing. The law recognizes that in case, police officers, public servants, staff of a hospital, jail , remand home, woman’s or children’s institution, while on duty, misuse their position of authority and trust, and commit rape, they must be subjected to harsher punishment than in case where the wrongdoer is a stranger to the victim.

However, the law is inconsistent in as much as it does not subject a rapist who is a part of the victim’s family, to a more severe punishment than when the rapist is an absolute alien to the victim. Is there no abuse of authority and breach of trust involved when the victim is sexually abused by her own father, or brother, or uncle?

Incongruously, it is the uttermost form of betrayal in such cases as people lay maximum amount of trust and faith in their family members, and hold them in high regard. The case of 50-year-old father in the Mira Road, Mumbai, incident in March 2009, was just the tip of a massive iceberg called incestuous rape. Despite the unwillingness to recognize incestuous rape as a separate crime, the bitter fact remains that incestuous rape is substantially prevalent in the society. The accused tantrik, and the girls’ father in the Mira Road incident, would face the same charges under Section 376 of the IPC, that is of rape. Does this imply that they are equally heinous in their sexual assaults on the girl in the real sense? Isn’t the father an uglier criminal than the tantrik?

Sadly, this question cannot be answered in the affirmative, owing to the lacuna existing in the law of the land, pertaining to incestuous rape. The institution of family is the founding unit of the social matrix and is expected to provide a sense of security and stability to individuals. A father who assaults his daughter, violates trust more gravely than does any other person, because the child has a stronger claim to a parent’s protection that she will be given elsewhere. The active support and encouragement from family is the only ray of hope left in the lives of rape victims. How traumatizing would it be then, for the victim to realize, that her rapist was someone from her own family- someone she had relied on, all her life?

The crime of incestuous rape is one wherein, the social beasts not only exploit the weak but also display utter depravity of character, which has destabilising, hysterical and devastating consequences on the victims, thus calling for stricter laws dealing with the same.

Vartika Jain

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