A Criminological Perspective on Sexual Offenders in India

Author: Atharva Kulshrestha

“When human beings think of themselves as all-powerful they believe and that their desires have moral power. “I want” becomes “I can.” when he believes himself to be the god, he becomes a beast.”

Sexual offence occurs when someone purposefully sexually contacts another person without their consent, or when someone coerces or physically forces someone to engage in a sexual act against their choice. It is a type of sexual violence that encompasses things like child sexual abuse, groping, rape (forced vaginal, anal, or oral penetration or a drug-assisted sexual attack), and sexual torture. Most sexual offences are now covered under the Sexual Offenses Act 2003, which was intended to be a major overhaul of the legislation on sexual offences, particularly in respect to consent.
Criminology is the scientific investigation of crime as a social phenomena, of criminals, and of judicial punishment. It aids society in comprehending, controlling, and reducing crime. Studying crime aids in the discovery and analysis of its causes, which can then be used to policies and efforts aimed at reducing crime.

Every day the newspapers are flooded with cases related to sexual offences especially rape cases. With these many increasing cases of sexual offence, crime prevention is necessary but for that purpose it is very important to identify the circumstances that leads to commission of these crimes with the help of theory of crime causation. The issue of sexual offending is just too complex to be simplified by a single theory. Sexual abuse is a learned behaviour. Even though issues about the causes of sexual offending have been asked for many years, they are still relevant today, owing to the difficulty in finding conclusive solutions. There are multiple reasons why it is important to be concerned with criminology of sexual offences. First, without knowledge of causes behind sexual offending and victimization the efforts put in making effective strategies will be insufficient. Second, knowledge of causes and pathways to offending can provide crucial details about the features of various sex offending behaviours such as, preferred victim type and the likelihood of their persisting over time. Third, management experts of sexual offenders can use this knowledge of causes of sexual offences to build more effective treatment strategies. In short, knowledge about origin, causes and pathways to sexual offending can play an important role in development and delivery of effective public safety strategies.
The researcher has focused on various theories such as biological theory, environmental theory, behavioural theory, control theory of rape, social learning theory, etc. and applied it to some recent cases to give an insight regarding this topic. It is to be made clear that this is an original work of the researcher and all the references taken are duly mentioned through hyperlink.

KEYWORDS- Sexual Offence, Rape, Criminology, Prevention, Sexual abuse, Sexual assault

Male Sexuality, Male pathology and Male Animosity: A Major Factor
The public’s perspective regarding sexual offences can be divided into three types. Male sexuality (men cannot control their sexual drives), male pathology (sexual offenders are mentally ill), and male animosity (hatred or dislike of women) are the three causes of sexual offences.
Surprisingly, while the first two factors blame men for the crime, they place the burden of prevention on the victims. The idea that men can’t control their sexual desires makes women responsible for settings that can arouse men, which they can prevent. Because society usually blames the victim for these sexual offences, many people do not come forward and press charges against the attacker. Biological theories deals with abnormalities in the structure of brain, hormone level, genetic and chromosomal makeup. It says that it is totally possible that people dealing with these kind of abnormalities are more likely to engage in sexual offences.
According to the male pathology viewpoint, rapists can be identified, and it is therefore the obligation of women to be careful of them. Of course, identification alone is not always enough because the victim may lack the ability to defend herself. Male hostility is considered to be a factor in stranger rape situations. In a very recent rape case in Goa the judge said the woman who accused the offender of sexual assault did not behave like a rape victim. However, there are numerous cases in which it is evident that victims are not responsible for the crime and are unable to prevent it, such as a 31-year-old man sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl after taking her to a secluded location in Madhurai; how is a 10-year-old girl supposed to be aware of the offender’s intent?
The second viewpoint, termed “female precipitation,” differs from male sexuality in a subtle way by holding the victim accountable for the rape. This is totally blaming the victim for creating a rape-friendly atmosphere, such as clothing provocatively, drinking with male pals, and so on Rape myths are causes of rape (male sexuality, male pathology, and female precipitation) that place the burden of prevention on the victim while exonerating the perpetrator. A 12-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted inside a mosque in nearest Delhi and in Mumbai 19-year-old college dropout for sexually assaulted an threatened his 17 year old former girlfriend.
The third point of view blames rape on society, blaming it on gender inequity or male domination. The fact that rape is still regarded a way to punish women and their families demonstrates the strength of the male dominance viewpoint. Personality theory that deals with the view that sex offenders have poor social skills and problems with intimacy. It is evident in the case where a 45 years old textile unit worker raped his niece and impregnented her. The Cognitive Theories says that sex offenders engage in cognitive distortions or thinking errors, and that these distorted thinking patterns have the capacity to drive deviant sexual behaviour. A 36-year-old man raped a four-year girl in Sonipath. In Uttar Pradesh, an 80 year old woman was raped while she was alone at her home. These cases are really disturbing and shows us that thinking pattern can be a factor behind these sexual offences.

Literacy, Poverty and Sexual offences – Are they linked?
In India, a multitude of societal and economic variables is at work, all of which contribute to the high rate of sexual offences. To begin with, a low literacy rate is linked to greater crime rates.
Poverty is another important element that contributes to rape in India since it causes a lack of sufficient sanitation. One of the variables leading to the high number of rape cases is the lack of toilets in the home. Women who are compelled to use open fields as toilets in the dark are easy targets for rapists who know when and where to attack since they are from the same village. As it is evident when a 16-year-old girl was raped at gunpoint In UP’s Shamli district when she went out to relieve herself. Social hierarchy also plays a role in rape, particularly among Dalit and tribal women, who are viewed as personal property with no human rights due to their inferior social status. A 19-year-old Dalit woman in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh died late last month after reporting she had been gang raped and brutally assaulted by four upper-caste men. After fighting for her life for two weeks, the victim died in a New Delhi hospital (Hatras case).
Furthermore, in India, occurrences of date rape or rape by a partner are not registered as rapes, which contributes to the lower number of recorded rapes. In India, societal and economic factors have a larger role in explaining the frequency of rapes and other sexual offences.

Patriarchy: An end to the means of sexual offence
In India, it is well know that we live in a male dominated society. In some cases, it is seen that these crimes are used as a tool to enforce patriarchy and as a way to exert control over women.
Evolutionary theories have been proposed to explain a variety of human behaviours, including sexual aggression. Evolutionary theory views human behaviour as a result of millions of adaptive changes to meet ongoing challenges within the environment. Various theories are based on the postulate about sexual selection and sexual strategies. One of which is sexual coercion. This theory presents a unique perspective that sexual offending behaviour is adaptation of environmental and interpersonal events.
Rape is defined as a crime motivated by a man’s desire to dominate a woman, rather than an act of passion or a crime of sexual lust, according to the control theory of rape. While a woman’s dignity is based on her chastity and ability to reproduce, a man’s dignity is frequently linked to his ability to exert authority over the women in his family. Some of the example of this sexual coercion can be seen in the recent case such as; 16-year-old girl was raped at gunpoint In UP’s Shamli district when she went out to relieve herself. Another example of this can be of a woman in UP was repeatedly raped for days after she was sold off by her father and a 13-year-old girl was raped by her own father in Gurugram after he had a fight with his wife.
Some radical feminist are of the view that to deal with the problem of rape one must deal with patriarchy first. They view rape and other sexual offences as an act of aggression and not as an act of sexual desire. Rape, according to the Patriarchal Power and Control Model, is merely an aggressive act rather than a physical act, with the goal and processes stemming from aggressiveness rather than the desire to satisfy a sexual want. Rape is a tool for imposing gender norms in society and sustaining a male-dominated system.

Honour of Women – Her Virginity?
In India, it is said that the honour, repute, or prominence of a family is determined by the honour of its women. While sexual crimes are horrible and distressing, a woman’s “virginity” and “honour” are overvalued, resulting in the monetization of her sexuality. It creates the impression that her chastity is a valued treasure of the entire community or family that must be safeguarded at all costs, even if it means murdering the victim.
In Uttar Pradesh, for example, a father, embarrassed and humiliated by his daughter’s evident baby-bump, killed his own daughter, unaware that she had been raped.
Sexuality is viewed as a form of property in the commodification theory. When questioned about why they raped convicted rapists confessed in a research that they raped because she was present. Why not take one more object since they were already breaking the laws of trespass and ownership? Another example of this was demonstrated in a recent incident in Delhi, in which a burglar broke into a residence in Jangpura and raped and abused a woman. When she refused to disclose her ATM information, he became enraged. Revenge rape is another tragic effect of this commodification.
In her piece Reflections on violence against women, Radhika Commaraswamy points out that a woman may be subjected to sexual violence as a means of dishonouring the entire community at times of war, riots, ethnic or caste strife.
Recently, a member of the National Commission of Women stated in reference to the Badaun rape victim that, “perhaps, had the victim not gone out in the evening, or gone along with a family member, she could have been saved”. Victim shaming and questioning the credibility of the victim shifts the focus from the perpetrator to the victim. This statement encapsulates how rape victims are viewed in society. The importance of a woman’s chastity, or lack thereof, is highly valued. It’s worth noting that marriageability, purity, social rank, and a woman’s image in society are all regularly emphasised. This makes the woman getting raped feel guilty and ashamed of what happened to her, She begins to blame herself as the rest of the world, including her neighbours, begins to blame her.

New Age of The Internet: Mala-fide Use
Social learning theories deals with insights for understanding sexual offending and there is evidence to support various tenets of social learning theory in the context of sexual offending. For example, there is sound empirical evidence that sexual offending is a learned behaviour. While it is true that there is no direct link between the use of pornography and rape, research has shown that it is a factor in moulding the attitudes and actions of certain men who use it, as well as a part in some men’s sexual aggression. There are several other cases of sexual aggression being fuelled by porn, some of which result in violent rapes. And cases of such violent rapes are on a steep rise in our country. It objectifies women and children. The Internet has made access to pornographic material exceptionally easy and tempting. People can access any type of pornography on the Internet, including content involving violent sex, child pornography, bestiality, fetishes, as well as general sexual content. Class 10 student at Nillapudi village in Krishna district for molesting an eight-year-old girl, who happens to be his neighbour. During investigation, police and parents of the teenager came to know that he used to watch porn on his smartphone. Teenagers and youngsters who are addicted to pornography, are more prone to commit crimes. A 13-year-old kid admits to rapping a girl under the age of eight after being neglected by his mother and developing a pornography addictionThere are no restrictions on the internet based on a person’s age. And when a young developing mind is exposed to these things and is exposed to violent pornography on the internet, he becomes desensitised. All those people who are addicted to brutal pornography are more likely to commit sexual offences. Finklehor’s Precondition Theory explains how motivation to do a sexual offence becomes commission of the same. Pornography provides or develops these types of motivation by normalising immoral behaviours such as sexual relations with sister in-laws, step siblings, and other family members, which is extremely harmful to the minds and thinking of society’s developing youth. Thus, it plays a major part in commission of sexual offences.

To conclude it can be said that because sexual offences are so complicated, it’s impossible to rely on a single theory. However, using various theories, it is feasible to investigate and discover diverse causes for the commission of these acts. While there is no definitive reason why someone commits a sexual offence, simply arguing for heavier penalties would not solve the problem. The issue must be viewed in a larger, more comprehensive context. It’s important to pay attention to how we talk about such crimes.

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