IPC AND GENDER BIAS
The principle of equality has been enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution of India. Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides Right to Equality and Article 15 of the Constitution of India seeks to protect the citizens against discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them. However, the state is entitled to make special provisions for women and children. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) is one such piece of legislation that strongly protects women from various crimes. Though necessary for the protection of women, should these provisions not protect men as well? While men need equal protection from such crimes, too, there have been cases where women have often been found misusing the laws that are meant to protect them.
To begin with, Sections 304B and 498A of the IPC focus on dowry death and cruelty, respectively. Apart from the abovementioned provisions of the IPC, Section 113B of the Indian Evidence Act (Presumption as to dowry death) allows the court to presume that a person has caused the dowry death of a woman who was subjected by such person to cruelty or harassment for, or in connection with, any demand for dowry. Section 498A of the IPC, read with Section 113A of the Indian Evidence Act, allows the court to presume-where a woman commits suicide within 7 years of the marriage and such a woman was subjected to cruelty by her husband or his relatives, the suicide was abetted by her husband or by his relatives. There is no remedy under the criminal law, for a man who’s been subjected to these crimes. Moreover, under the criminal law, there is no provision that defines dowry death and cruelty as a crime against males.
Under section 497 of the IPC, adultery is a crime. The fact that crime has no gender and neither should our laws, has been severely disregarded in this provision where only the adulterer and not the adulteress is punished for committing adultery. The woman who is engaging herself in the act of adultery is not considered as an abettor as well. Section 497, IPC read with Section 198(2), CrPC, provide the husband of the adulteress with the status of being the ‘aggrieved party’ and hence, only he (and no one else) can initiate a legal action on the commission of such a crime. Meanwhile, the law forgets to protect the right of the woman whose husband is the adulterer. In a hypothetical situation, where a woman’s husband has sexual intercourse outside marriage, what about the rights of such a woman? She would be unable to initiate criminal proceedings against such a husband, although she can seek divorce under the personal laws, on the grounds of adultery.
Moving on further to the laws against outraging the modesty of a woman, the author would seek one’s attention to the lopsided provisions protecting solely women from crimes like Sexual Harassment, Disrobing, Voyeurism and Stalking. Sexual Harassment, as defined under the provisions of the IPC, can be committed only by a man and only against a woman. A woman performing the same actions against a man that constitute ‘sexual harassment’ cannot be punished and the man who has been a victim to such an offence cannot seek help under the criminal law. Same is the case with section 354B, which punishes a man who disrobes a woman. Voyeurism under the IPC is a crime where a man “who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image” shall be punished. Whereas, section 354D protects women from the crime of stalking. These provisions of the IPC are meant specifically for women and do not provide any sort of protection to a man aggrieved by such crimes. So can a man not be subjected to crimes like sexual harassment, voyeurism or stalking? Can the patriarchal thought of presuming that males are physically stronger than females, save the males from being disrobed? What is it that acts as an impediment to provide protection to males against these crimes? Also, there is no provision that punishes a woman who commits the same crimes against a man or a woman. A man can resort to the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 for crimes like voyeurism. However, he can still not initiate criminal proceedings.
Rape laws in India do not protect men from being raped. As per the definition of Rape under section 375 of the IPC, only women can be victims to the crime of rape and only a man can commit the crime of rape. A woman is not punished even as an abettor in case of gang rape. There have been various unreported cases where a man was raped. A man has absolutely no remedy if he is a victim to this heinous crime. If a man is raped by another man, the former does not have any medium to initiate a criminal proceeding against the latter. In fact, even Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that talks about ‘unnatural sex’, does not differentiate between consensual and non-consensual intercourse. A man has no way to seek justice in case he’s been raped. Also, a man who promises to marry a woman and has sexual intercourse with her, but later does not marry her, is also termed as a rapist. Whereas, there is no such provision against women doing the same to a man.
In order for such crimes to be recognized, the major reform that needs to take place is with the thinking and the mentality of the society. Secondly, such crimes must not go unreported. Such issues need to be in the limelight so that laws can be amended considering the plight of males. There should be a punishment in case of frivolous cases in which women misuse the provisions that were enacted solely for their protection. Such loopholes in the law lead to grave injustice against men. The state should protect all its citizens from crimes and injustice against them. The gender bias reflected in the Indian Penal Code is a major issue and should be done away with. There is no denying the fact that women are still termed as the weaker section of the society and therefore need special provisions for the protection and upliftment. However, such protection must not lead to a situation where the law does not protect men against all the above mentioned crimes.
 Section 354A,IPC
 Section 354B,IPC
 Section 354C,IPC
 Section 354D,IPC
Written By: Arushi Dube