This article on “What is Digital Rape?: All you need to know” was written by Amruta Patil, an Intern at Legal Upanishad.
In a world where there is theft, robbery, rape, murder, and cybercrime already rising, a recent addition to the list is “digital rape”. There have been reports of widespread digital rape.
A brief online search will provide recent happening which reads something as follow-
- “Recently, a 75-year-old man was arrested and given a life sentence for digital rape of a 3-year-old child.”
- One can locate a few fairly recent examples of allegations of digital rape being dropped after doing a little more digging via the online search.
- An 81-year man was arrested for raping a 17-year-old girl over a period of ten years. He too was accused of “digital rape”.
What exactly is digital rape? Is it similar to rape defined in the Indian Penal Code? Does the phrase “digit” refers to either the internet or arithmetic? Are there any laws protecting the victims and punishing the offenders?
The following article discusses all you need to know about digital rape.
Meaning of digital
The meaning of digit in the English dictionary is said to include any number 0 to 9. The anatomical meaning of digit refers to finger, thumb, or toe.
What is digital rape?
By the term digital, it is easier to get confused that this activity involves the use of the internet or is committed virtually like cybercrime. Digital Rape is classified as an act in which the perpetrator uses a “digit” i.e. finger, thumb, or toe which is forcefully inserted into another person’s private parts without their consent amounting to digital rape.
Such acts were initially covered under the charges of molestation until 2012. It was only after the amendment of rape offences, molestation was considered a sexual offense.
Rape and its punishment
Rape is a cognizable and non-bailable offense defined in the Indian Penal Code,1860 under Section 375. To put it simply, rape is defined as forceful intercourse or an assault that is done by a man against the will or consent of the woman.
- Against her will
- Without consent
- In fear of death of her or any person, she is interested in.
The code further provides six circumstances that also amount to rape. A few are elaborated below-
The punishment for the crime is defined under Section 376 as rigorous imprisonment either for a term not less than ten years which can be extended to life imprisonment and also with a fine.
Classification of the victims
The law identifies the victims as majors and minors based on which the offenders are subjected to the punishment.
- Major- people who are 18 and above are classified as major.
- Minor- individuals who are less than 18 are classified as minor
It is pertinent to define the victim as it helps in determining the punishment. A majority of offences committed go unreported and often the victims of these are minors.
The amendment of laws regarding rape
The Nirbhaya Gang Rape case shook the entire nation on 16th December in the year 2012 when a 23-year-old girl was brutally raped in. a moving bus in Delhi by six people with a juvenile involved.
The incident bought into light the loopholes in the legal system regarding law defining sexual offences against women which included rape, sexual harassment, child trafficking, etc, and their punishment. The incident was a wake-up to the existing status quo of the legal system on crimes which led to the formation of a committee to amend the laws and bring necessary. Changes considering the rise in the commission of rape offences in the country.
The committee was known as the Justice Verma committee along with two other Justice Leila Seth and Justice Gopal Subramanium which suggested bringing about changes in the matters involving offences against women and children.
The committee recommended maintaining rape as a separate offence and it should not be restricted to penetration of the vagina or anus but also include any non-consensual penetration to be included in the definition of rape.
The committee aimed to formulate laws that are stringent on the offenders with the rising cases of Rape.
The definition of section 375 was amended in 2013, with the addition of a clause that broadens the definition of rape. The clause is 375 (b)
A man is said to commit rape if he-
“inserts, to any extent, any object or a part of a body, not being the penis, into the vagina, the urethra or anus of a woman or makes her do so with him or other people.”Section 375 (b)
This clause can be said to define what is now being called digital rape.
Punishment to the offender
The law was amended after the 2012 Nirbhaya Case, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act,2013 now punishes the offender by sentencing them under 376 IPC with the following-
- Imprisonment for 5 years
- Imprisonment for 10 years
- Life imprisonment
As it can be seen that in recent instances, digital rape has been committed against minors by known sources.
The punishment for the offender is given under the POCSO act which is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence Act for offences defined under Sections 5 and Section 6 which deals with aggravated penetrative sexual assaults on children below the age of twelve and the subsequent section defines punishment for the same under the act which is-
- Rigorous imprisonment for a term of 20 years, can be extended to life.
- Imposition of fine under section 6(1) for medical and rehabilitation expenses of the victim
Recent instances of digital rape
According to a survey conducted it was reported that most rapes occur digitally or otherwise are done by sources who are known to the victim which allows them to easily establish trust with the victim and commit the crime which goes unreported.
A few instances which have been in the news recently are as follows-
- Surajpur session court convicted a 65-year-old man for digitally raping a 3-year-old girl in Salarpur village in Noida. The victim was the neighbor’s daughter. The court awarded life imprisonment to the accused/
- An 81-year-old man, an artist by profession who was a friend of the guardian with whom the victim was staying, had alleged that the accused had been raping her for a period of seven years. The accused was sent to judicial custody on the basis of the complaint filed under section 376 of the IPC by the guardian.
Rape is the most heinous crime which exists and is frequently committed in our society. It often is committed by trusted sources of the victim and often goes unreported allowing the offender the freedom to repeat such instances. Among the existing sexual offences, Digital Rape is the newer one on the record which making the headlines. In view of the same, there is also an urgent need to revamp the already existing laws which charge and punishes the offenders as they fail to deter the criminals from committing such acts. The act is not against the victim but against humanity whether done digitally or otherwise.
- The Editor of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “digit” https://www.britannica.com/science/digit-anatomy
- Apoorva Purohit (2022, June 25th) “what is digital rape? Laws regarding it” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QubObDbvkHY
- The Quint,(2022, Sep 01st) “75 -year old gets Life Imprisonment for Digital Rape: what does it mean?” https://www.thequint.com/news/law/man-gets-life-imprisonment-for-digital-rape-in-noida-what-does-it-mean-law-explained#read-more
- Outlook Web Desk,(2022, Sep 1st) “WB Man gets Life Imprisonment for Digital Rape in Noida: what is it” https://www.outlookindia.com/national/what-is-digital-rape-man-booked-for-digital-rape-of-minor-sentenced-to-life-imprisonment-news-220339
- TN Tech Desk,(2022, Sep 2nd) “what is Digital Rape? Is it the same as being assaulted in the virtual world” https://www.timesnownews.com/technology-science/what-is-digital-rape-is-it-the-same-as-being-assaulted-in-the-virtual-world-article-93944164
- India Today (2022, May 16th ) “Noida -81-year-old artist held for digital rape of a minor for 7 years” https://www.indiatoday.in/crime/story/noida-news-artist-arrested-digital-rape-minor-seven-years-1949965-2022-05-16
- Abhishek Awasthi, (2022 Aug 31st) “Know what is Digital Rape for which Noida man gets imprisoned” https://www.firstpost.com/india/know-what-is-digital-rape-for-which-noida-man-gets-life-in-prison-11155141.html