Kautilya prescribes capital sentence for the offence of rape against woman in custody committed by an officer of the State. Also, there is provision of heavy punishment for rape on minor girl and if the victim dies, Kautilya prescribes death punishment. There are certain categories of sexual intercourse which are strictly prohibited both for men and women, e.g., ‘no man shall have intercourse with any woman against her will’ (Shamashastri 262-264).
Kautilya’s position in this matter appears to be very modern and in fact, is an improvement on what our criminal law provides. The primary issue is willingness or consent irrespective of rights and relationship. A woman could refuse to allow her husband to cohabit if she did not feel the ‘desire’. Even where consent might have been given, there are certain instances where Kautilya considers the act illegal and provides punishment.
Despite the amendment of Section 376 IPC by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, present law in the matter of rape does not provide as rigorous punishment as Kautilya does.
The revised statutes of 2013 Indian law, in section 376A, mandates minimum punishment in certain cases. For instance, if the sexual assault inflicts an injury which causes death or causes the victim to be in a persistent vegetative state, then the convicted rapist must be sentenced with rigorous imprisonment of at least twenty years and up to the remainder of the natural life or with a death penalty.”In the case of “gang rape”, the same mandatory sentencing is now required by law.The convicted is also required to pay compensation to the victim which shall be reasonable to meet the medical expenses and rehabilitation of the victim, and per Section 357 B in the Code of Criminal Procedure. Death penalty for the most extreme rape cases is specified.
The 2013 law also increased the age of consent from 16 years to 18 years, and any sexual activity with anyone less than age of 18, irrespective of consent, now constitutes statutory rape.
The new law has made it mandatory for all government and privately run hospitals in India to give free first aid and medical treatment to victims of rape.