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Every time I read Section 375 of the India Penal Code, 1860, one thing that strikes me the most is the line, “A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under…”

Every time I read Section 375 of the India Penal Code, 1860, one thing that strikes me the most is the line, “A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under…”

“Why is rape gender specific? Why can’t we have men as rape victims & women as rape perpetrators?

I believe, men are the most vulnerable section of the society because they have always been forced to live up to the double standards expectations of the society. In fact, many male victims of rape do not even have the courage to report since they have the fear of being judged by the society.

This article focusses upon various dimensions of gender neutrality, its existence in Indian rape laws and the need for gender specific laws.


Gender neutrality , also known as gender-neutralism or the gender neutrality movement, is the idea that policies, languages, and other social institutions (social structures, gender roles, or gender identity) should avoid distinguishing roles according to people’s sex or gender, in order to avoid discrimination arising from the impression that there are social roles for which one gender is more suited than another. [1]

General Neutrality in laws is a bigger concern these days. Laws are the most important part of every society which not only regulate the conduct and behavior of  the individuals but also ensure personal liberties. But, when talking about sexual offences for instance rapes, we see laws as gender specific especially with respect to the victims and perpetrators.

There are basically three dimensions of gender neutrality; concerning victim; concerning perpetrator and neutrality in custodial, war and communal situation. In this article, we will be dealing with the first two:

  1. Gender Neutrality with respect to the victims

Whenever we hear of rape, the first thing that comes in our mind is rape against women. Women are considered to be victims of sexual offences but what about men?  In fact, Indian Laws on rape are  gender specific. Section 375 restricts the definition of rape as insertion of penis or any foreign object into the vagina of a woman or girl without her consent.  It is true that most of the victims of sexual offences are women but one can not ignore the possibility of men being raped.

  1. Gender Neutrality with respect to the Perpetrators

Men exclusively are treated as perpetrators of rapes. Rather, our society believes that women cannot do rapes because they are physically weak. But, this does not hold true every time. There are instances where men have been raped by women and women raping women.


In the case of Sudesh Jhaku v. K.C. Jhaku 1998 CRI LJ 2428, the court first time dealt with the question of gender neutrality and said that sexually assaulted men should be given the same protection of the law as given to female victims. In Sakshi v. Union of India (1999) 6 SCC 591the Apex Court directed the whole issue to law commission. Subsequently, the 172nd Law Commission’s report recommended making rape laws unbiased. These recommendations took form of legislation in Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2012 but before the bill could have become an Act, the nation was rocked by the incident of Nirbhaya Rape Case.

After this, the Government of India constituted the Justice Verma Committee (JVC) and assigned it the task of submitting report on the necessary reforms to be made in rape laws. The report recommended increasing ambit of the definition of rape under Section 375 of IPC, 1860 by not keeping it concise to penile-vaginal intercourse. Moreover, it also recommended making rape laws gender-neutral. These recommendations were in the Criminal Law Amendment Bill 2013.

The second recommendation welcomed a great amount of criticism from numerous women groups who asserted that the provisions promulgated in the bill not solely question the report but make women more vulnerable and the male community more powerful. Due to the aforesaid criticism, the Bill remained intact.

Recently, a Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 2019 was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by way of a Private Members’ Bill by K T S Tulsi, to make the offence of rape, gender-neutral. One of the propositions made in the bill is with respect to the amendment to Section 375 of IPC wherein it is being proposed to replace pronouns referencing “men” and ‘women’ specifically with words such as “any person” or “other person” effectively making the offence of rape gender-neutral.  However, sub-clause (fourthly) according to which consent under the impression that the man is her husband is rape is not be modified.  The Bill also proposes to replace the words ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ with the phrase ‘genital’ which is subsequently defined under Explanation 1 to mean the penis and vagina. However, this change will not apply to sub-clause (b) which states that the penetration of any object not being a penis shall amount to rape as well.

The Bill has not been passed yet and there is no update regarding the same.


Article 14 of the Constitution of India confers upon its citizens equality before law and equal protection of law. Laws are meant to protect citizens as well provide justice to them but, making them gender specific defeats the whole idea of equality and equal protection of law. Victims and perpetrators should not be made gender specific. There are several rape cases which are left unreported wherein men are the victims just because they have a fear of being looked down by the society.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to amend various laws related to sexual offences especially that of rape and make them applicable on both men and women.

After all, men are raped, too!


  • The Indian Penal Code, 1860
  • Mishra Arjit, Gender Neutral Rape Laws: Need of the Hour,

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