The Gender Biasness in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860


Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) delineates the offense of rape and prescribes its penalties. It defines rape as the act of a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman under various circumstances, including against her will, without her consent, or through coercion induced by fear of harm or death. The provision also covers cases where a woman mistakenly believes the perpetrator to be her lawful spouse.

According to Section 375, rape encompasses sexual penetration of any bodily orifice and invalidates consent obtained under conditions such as intoxication or mental incapacity. Offenders face imprisonment for a minimum of seven years, extendable to life imprisonment, along with fines. The severity of punishment may escalate if the victim is a minor or suffers grave harm or death.

Critics contend that the present formulation of Section 375 exhibits gender bias by exclusively framing women as victims and men as perpetrators. This construct perpetuates stereotypes and overlooks male, transgender, and non-binary individuals as potential victims of rape.

Additionally, the provision’s emphasis on the victim’s consent places undue burden on survivors to prove lack of consent, often discouraging reporting due to fear of disbelief and victim-blaming. The law’s narrow scope fails to address the broader spectrum of sexual assault and hampers protection for marginalized groups.

Furthermore, certain clauses within Section 375 enable perpetrators to evade accountability by exploiting loopholes, such as claiming consent despite the use of force or coercion.

In essence, the current formulation of Section 375 warrants critical examination and reform to ensure gender-inclusive and survivor-centric approaches to addressing sexual violence while upholding principles of justice and human rights.


Gender bias refers to the inclination or predisposition toward one gender over another, which frequently results in unjust treatment or disparities in opportunities based on gender. It can manifest in various forms, encompassing stereotyping, unequal pay, restricted access to education or employment opportunities, and underrepresentation in positions of authority.

Both conscious and unconscious, gender bias affects individuals of all genders, although women often bear the brunt of its negative consequences. Rooted in cultural and societal norms, gender bias perpetuates stereotypes and sustains gender inequalities across various spheres of life.

Intentional or not, gender bias marginalizes individuals and fosters discrimination, restricting their access to resources and perpetuating systemic inequities. Its effects extend beyond individual experiences to shape communities and societies at large, impeding progress toward gender equality and social justice.

In addressing gender bias, it is essential to recognize its pervasive nature and work towards fostering inclusive environments that promote fairness, equal opportunities, and respect for all genders. This requires challenging existing norms, fostering awareness, and implementing policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion for everyone, regardless of gender identity or expression.


Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) delineates the offense of rape in India, providing a comprehensive definition and enumeration of acts constituting the crime. Under this provision, rape is defined as the act of a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman without her consent or when she is unable to provide consent.

The section outlines various scenarios in which a man may be considered to have committed rape, including penetration of bodily orifices, manipulation of body parts, or the use of force or coercion to compel sexual intercourse. Additionally, it recognizes specific circumstances where sexual acts with a woman, such as when she is under 18 years old, incapacitated, intoxicated, unconscious, or unable to communicate consent, are deemed to constitute rape.

Penalties for rape under Section 375 are severe, with offenders facing imprisonment for a minimum of seven years, extendable to life imprisonment, and the possibility of fines. In certain aggravated cases, such as when the offense leads to grievous harm or death, the death penalty may be imposed.

Section 375 of the IPC reflects the gravity with which the Indian legal system addresses the crime of rape and underscores the importance of obtaining explicit and voluntary consent in all sexual encounters. It serves as a crucial instrument in combating sexual violence and protecting the rights and dignity of individuals, particularly women and vulnerable populations.


The future outlook for Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) being perceived as gender-biased hinges on the proactive measures taken to address inherent gender disparities within the provision. Currently, the section predominantly portrays men as perpetrators and women as victims of rape, overlooking the experiences of individuals across various gender identities and sexual orientations.

To rectify this, there is a pressing need to expand the scope of the provision to encompass all gender identities and sexual orientations, ensuring its application is gender-neutral. By doing so, all survivors of sexual violence, irrespective of gender, will receive equitable protection under the law.

Furthermore, advocates have advocated for the incorporation of affirmative consent within Section 375. This entails mandating clear and unambiguous consent from all parties involved in sexual activity, emphasizing mutual agreement and respect for boundaries. Such a provision would underscore the importance of consent and shift the focus from assumed compliance to active affirmation.

By implementing these reforms, Section 375 can evolve into a progressive and inclusive legal framework that safeguards individuals from sexual violence across diverse gender spectra. However, failure to address these gender disparities would perpetuate its perception as biased and necessitate continued advocacy for reform to align with evolving societal norms and values.

Additionally, comprehensive education and awareness programs on sexual violence and consent are imperative to foster a culture of respect and understanding surrounding sexual autonomy and boundaries. Through concerted efforts, Section 375 can serve as a beacon of justice, ensuring equal protection for all individuals against the scourge of sexual violence.


Several related sections within the Indian Penal Code (IPC) contribute to the gender bias present in Section 375. These sections perpetuate stereotypes and reinforce gender disparities in the legal framework:

Section 376: This section delineates the punishment for rape and limits the definition of perpetrators to men, excluding women and individuals of other genders. This reinforcement of gender bias in Section 375 further marginalizes victims outside the male-female binary.

Section 354: Addressing the offense of outraging the modesty of a woman, this section defines unwelcome sexual advances or physical contact. However, it fails to acknowledge that individuals of all genders can be victims of sexual harassment and assault, thus perpetuating gender bias.

Section 497: Concerning adultery, this section exclusively holds men accountable for the offense, perpetuating the stereotype of women as possessions and reinforcing male entitlement over their partners’ sexuality.

Section 155(4) of the Indian Evidence Act: This provision allows defense to question the character of the victim during cross-examination, often leading to victim-blaming and portraying the victim as immoral. Such practices perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and undermine victims’ credibility.

These sections collectively contribute to the gender bias evident in Section 375, reflecting systemic issues within the Indian legal system. To address these biases, comprehensive reforms are necessary to recognize all victims of sexual assault and harassment, irrespective of gender identity, and to ensure that legal proceedings do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Reform efforts should aim to foster inclusivity, promote gender equality, and uphold the rights and dignity of all individuals within the legal framework.


The gender bias inherent in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code is evident through several key points:

Limited Definition of Rape: Section 375 confines the definition of rape to non-consensual sexual intercourse with a woman, excluding men and transgender individuals as potential victims. This exclusion reinforces harmful gender stereotypes and disregards the vulnerability of marginalized groups.

Exception for Marital Rape: Section 375(2) contains an exception allowing men to engage in sexual intercourse with their wives above the age of 15, even without their consent. This provision perpetuates the notion of women as property and upholds patriarchal notions of marital entitlement.

Burden of Proof: Section 114A of the Indian Evidence Act creates a presumption of lack of consent if a woman states so in her testimony. However, this presumption does not extend to marital relations, placing an undue burden on victims and perpetuating the stereotype that women fabricate rape accusations.

Harmful Exceptions: Section 375 includes exceptions that reinforce harmful stereotypes, such as permitting consensual sexual intercourse with a minor wife or with a woman under the influence of substances. These exceptions undermine the rights and dignity of individuals and perpetuate systemic gender bias.

These factors collectively underscore the gender bias present in Section 375 and its failure to adequately protect all individuals from sexual assault. Reform is imperative to ensure that victims of sexual violence, regardless of gender or marital status, receive equitable protection under the law and that legal frameworks do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Efforts to amend Section 375 should prioritize inclusivity, gender equality, and the rights of all individuals within the legal system.


  • Independent Thought Vs Union Of India (2017):

In this pivotal case, the Supreme Court of India invalidated the exception within Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which previously permitted husbands to engage in sexual intercourse with their underage wives (ages 15-18) without their consent. The Court ruled that this exception violated women’s rights and perpetuated the notion of women as chattels of men. This landmark decision underscored the gender bias inherent in Section 375 and emphasized the urgent need for legal reform to ensure comprehensive protection for all rape victims, regardless of their marital status.

  • State Of Haryana Vs Bhajan Lal (1992):

In this significant legal precedent, the Supreme Court ruled that the testimony of a rape victim with a history of sexual promiscuity or previous sexual activity was inherently unreliable. This judgment reinforced the detrimental stereotype that women engaging in sexual relations outside of marriage or without consent deserved censure. Furthermore, it underscored the imperative for reforming Section 155(4) of the Indian Evidence Act, which permits defense counsel to impugn the character of rape victims during cross-examination, exacerbating victim-blaming narratives.

  • State Of Maharashtra Vs Madhukar Narayan Mardikar (1991) :

In this notable case, the Bombay High Court established a precedent wherein a man could evade conviction for rape if he genuinely believed the victim had consented to sexual intercourse, even in the absence of actual consent. This ruling perpetuated the damaging stereotype of male entitlement over women’s bodies and diminished the significance of women’s autonomy and consent. It emphasized the urgency of reforming Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code to prevent perpetrators from absolving themselves of responsibility by asserting the victim’s purported consent.

These cases elucidate the pervasive gender bias inherent in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which has resulted in adverse repercussions for women and reinforced harmful societal stereotypes. They underscore the imperative for legal reform to ensure comprehensive protection for all rape victims, regardless of gender, marital status, or sexual history. Such reforms are indispensable for fostering a more equitable and just legal framework that upholds the rights and dignity of all individuals.


Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code has come under scrutiny for its perceived gender bias, primarily due to its restrictive definition of rape that excludes men as victims and places undue emphasis on the victim’s consent rather than the perpetrator’s actions. Critics have also raised concerns about the provision’s lenient approach to punishing offenders.

Despite efforts to amend the provision and address these concerns, debates surrounding its fairness and effectiveness persist. It is evident that there is a pressing need to ensure that laws protecting victims of sexual assault are equitable and impartial for all individuals, irrespective of gender.

Moving forward, it is imperative for policymakers, legal experts, and civil society to engage in constructive dialogue and deliberation to enact meaningful reforms that uphold the rights and dignity of all individuals. By fostering a legal framework that is inclusive, just, and responsive to the diverse needs of society, we can work towards creating a safer and more equitable environment for all.

                                                                                             WRITTEN BY: SRISTY DEY

                                                                                      INSTITUTION NAME: JIS University

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