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Violence against women > Different forms of Violence > Rape & Sexual Assault

About Rape and Sexual Assault

Rape, as defined by Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is an assault by a person involving sexual intercourse with another person without that person's consent.

The term Rape is sometimes confused with the term sexual assault. However, it is important to understand the difference. Sexual Assault includes a wide array of behaviour that is sexual in nature and non-consensual, but may not involve penetration by the penis. This could include penetration (oral, anal or vaginal) by the finger or other objects, fondling of private parts, masturbation, licking, sucking or other inappropriate touching. As we can see, rape is a rather restricted term that does not take into account any of these behaviours. Sexual Assault, is hence a more holistic way of looking at this crime. As far as the law is concerned, Section 375 does not take into account any of the other acts mentioned above. It does not also recognize rape within marriage. These acts currently fall under sections having less severe punishments, such as:
-Section 354 'criminal assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty' and
-Section 377 covering 'carnal intercourse against the order of nature'.



Sexual Assault is a crime of power, not a crime of lust, as is commonly believed. It can happen to both men and women of any age. A rapist uses actual force or violence  or the threat of it  to take control over another human being. Some rapists use drugs to take away a person's ability to fight back. It is hence common to see that survivors do not have any injuries.

Sexual assault is a highly under-reported crime. The reasons for this are varied. For one, the stigma attached to this nature of assault is great and the social consequences can be tremendous. Moreover, sexual assault is often perpetrated by a known person. It is a crime, whether the person committing it is a stranger, a date, an acquaintance, or a family member. But crimes of this nature when committed by a trusted person are the most under-reported.

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