An 81-year-old sketch artist has been arrested in Uttar Pradesh's Noida for the alleged 'digital rape' of a 17-year-old girl for over seven years. Police said the suspect was living with the minor victim as her guardian.
According to the police, the accused had an office in Himachal Pradesh and one of his workers sent his minor daughter to live with him so that she could get an education. He has been sexually exploiting the minor ever since.
"The girl was initially scared. But in the past month, she started recording the suspect's sexual advances, mostly as audio files. She collected sizable evidence and shared her plight with a woman, who lived with the suspect who then lodged a complaint," said additional deputy commissioner of police Ranvijay Singh, according to Hindustan Times.
What Is Digital Rape?
'Digital rape' means forced sex with a girl or woman using any object other than the reproductive organ. It did not fall under the ambit of rape but was added after the 2012 Nirbhaya case s the government sought to expand the definition of rape and prescribe harsher punishment.
While the term evokes ideas of the newly developing metaverse, it refers to the physical act of using the fingers of a hand or foot, i.e. 'digits', for sexual assault of a woman, India Today reported.
After 2013, 'rape' is no longer confined to the act of 'coitus', that is, the sexual act of penetration of the penis of a man into the vagina of a woman. It now includes "insertion to any extent" of any object or part of the body into a woman's mouth, urethra, vagina, or anus.
Justice JS Verma Committee
The Justice JS Verma Committee, which was set up to recommend amendments, noted in its report that the legal definition of "rape" and "sexual assault" was limited to "penetration" while other types of sexual assault were "not subject to appropriate legal sanction".
The Committee report also looked into the definitions of rape and sexual assault in other countries, particularly Canada and the UK. It also considered the South African Criminal Law, which looks at rape as all forms of "sexual penetration" in a gender-neutral way.
In addition, it considered that the UN Handbook on Legislation on Violence against Women "recommends that 'sexual assault' be defined as a violation of bodily integrity and sexual autonomy".
The Verma Committee finally recommended that expanding the definition of "rape" to include more than only penile penetration would be appropriate, as "this is a widely understood term which also expresses society's strong moral condemnation".
What Do Lawyers say?
Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra said that the offence of digital rape was added to the IPC as there were "several instances where there was sexual assault of a woman through the use of hands or toys which was earlier not covered under the rape law".
"Sexual assault has been defined more broadly after the 2013 amendments. After the amendment to the rape law, it was defined that any touching of sex organs will also amount to rape In the new rape law, it was brought within the definition of rape because there were many cases where a girl would be touched but the act of coitus was not done. That meant that perpetrators would be acquitted, so the decision was taken to expand the provision," she said.
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