Breaking the Silence: Addressing the Issue of Digital Rape

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Breaking the Silence: Addressing the Issue of Digital Rape

Written by Prachi Bansal


Digital rape, a term stemming from the Nirbhaya Gang Rape case, denotes non-consensual penetration with fingers or toes. Recognized under Indian law, it’s covered by IPC Section 375 and POCSO Act Section 3(b). Unlike online crimes, digital rape involves physical violation, affecting anyone regardless of age. Misunderstood often, it’s distinct from online misconduct. Victims endure severe trauma and societal stigma, necessitating awareness, law enforcement, and supportive environments. Effective legislative and societal action is crucial with numerous cases reported, especially in states like Orissa.

Understanding Digital Rape:

Definition of Digital Rape:

Digital rape, a term gaining increasing recognition in recent years, refers to the non-consensual penetration of the vagina, mouth, anus, or urethra using fingers, toes, or any other part of the body excluding the genitals. The phrase derives from the word “digit,” meaning finger or toe. Prior to the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case, such acts were merely classified as molestation, carrying minimal punishment.

However, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013 redefined digital rape as a serious offence under Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 3(b) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act. This amendment followed recommendations from the Justice JS Verma Committee, established after the Nirbhaya incident to address gaps in existing sexual offense laws.

Digital rape victims suffer profound trauma, affecting their mental health, self-respect, and societal integration. Despite legal advancements, societal awareness remains low, often mistaking digital rape for online misconduct. High-profile cases, such as the assault of a 2-year-old in Mumbai and a 60-year-old woman in Delhi, underscore the severity and prevalence of this crime. Digital rape, now recognized as a violation of fundamental human rights, necessitates robust legal enforcement and societal support to aid victims and prevent future offenses.

Distinguishing Digital Rape from Cyber Raping:

“Digital rape” refers specifically to non-consensual penetration using fingers or toes, deriving its name from the term “digit,” which encompasses fingers, thumbs, or toes. Before the 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape case, this act was classified as molestation rather than rape, but subsequent legislation redefined it as a serious sexual offense. It’s important to differentiate digital rape from cybercrimes like online harassment and sextortion, which occur digitally without physical penetration. Misunderstanding these distinctions can blur the severity of cybercrimes and hinder efforts to support victims adequately. Clarifying these terms promotes awareness, empathy, and appropriate legal responses to all forms of sexual abuse in physical and digital contexts.

Legal Framework and Punishment for Digital Rape:

The term “digital rape” has been formally recognized within the legal framework of India, distinguishing it from other forms of sexual offenses. This acknowledgment came after significant legal reforms post-2012, particularly influenced by the infamous Nirbhaya gang rape case, which spurred changes in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the introduction of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

• Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC):

o This section defines rape and includes provisions specific to digital rape. A man is deemed to have committed rape if he:
o Penetrates his penis into the vagina, mouth, urethra, or anus of a woman, or forces her to do so with him or another person.
o Inserts any object or body part, other than the penis, into the vagina, urethra, or anus of a woman, or forces her to do so with him or another person. This is commonly referred to as digital rape.
o Manipulates any part of the woman’s body to cause penetration of the vagina, urethra, or anus, or forces her to do so with him or another person.
o Applies his mouth to the vagina, anus, or urethra of a woman, or forces her to do so with him or another person.
o These acts are considered rape when committed under circumstances such as against her will, without her consent, or if the consent is obtained through fear, deception, or when the woman is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the act due to intoxication or mental incapacity. The law also extends to cases involving minors under the age of 18, where consent is considered invalid.

• Section 376 of the IPC:

This section details the punishment for rape, including digital rape. The general punishment for rape is rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than ten years, which may extend to life imprisonment, along with a fine. Specific aggravating circumstances, such as raping a minor, a pregnant woman, or causing severe physical or mental injury, attract stricter penalties, potentially including life imprisonment or the death penalty.

• Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act:
The POCSO Act specifically addresses sexual offenses against children, including digital rape.

• Section 3 of the POCSO Act:
Defines penetrative sexual assault as any act of penetration, however slight, of the vagina, mouth, urethra, or anus of a child by any part of the body other than the penis or by any object.

• Section 4 of the POCSO Act:
Prescribes the punishment for penetrative sexual assault, which includes rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than ten years, which may extend to life imprisonment, along with a fine. If the victim is below the age of 16, the minimum punishment is 20 years of rigorous imprisonment, which may extend to life imprisonment.

• Section 5 and Section 6 of the POCSO Act:
These sections deal with aggravated penetrative sexual assault and its punishment. Aggravated penetrative sexual assault includes cases where the victim is below twelve years of age, or where the assault is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority over the child. The punishment for such offences includes rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than 20 years, which may extend to life imprisonment or death.

The Impact of Digital Rape:

Digital rape causes severe physical, psychological, and social harm to victims. Physically, injuries like tears and bruising can lead to long-term health issues. Psychologically, it triggers PTSD, anxiety, and depression, often with social stigma and trust issues. Legal complexities and uneven access to support services further compound victims’ challenges, impacting recovery, education, careers, and financial stability. Addressing these impacts demands comprehensive legal protections, accessible support services, and societal awareness to support survivors and ensure justice.

Case Studies and Precedent:

• A 65-year-old man from Noida West received a prison sentence for digital rape. Following the new definition of rape, a 65-year-old man from Noida West was imprisoned but not charged under Section 376 of the Indian Criminal Code for his offences. Akbar Ali, a guy from Salarpur, Noida, seduced a 3-year-old child with toffees and exploited her vulnerability when the time arose. He was initially cleared since it was a digital rape case. On August 30, 2022, he was found guilty and sentenced under section 5(m)/6 of the POCSO Act.

• A conductor who sexually molested a four-year-old girl on a school bus has received a 20-year prison sentence. Times Now News published a report on December 12, 2018, detailing a case of digital rape in which a school-age girl child was digitally raped by the conductor. According to the article, the girl’s parents filed a complaint with the police, alleging that the conductor sat beside her on the school bus. He sexually abused her as the bus reached her home in the city’s Sector 56 neighbourhood. The incident came to light when the girl complained to her parents about soreness in her thighs. This prompted her mother to visit a doctor. After the doctor speculated that she may have been sexually molested, the girl told her parents about her ordeal, and an official police complaint was filed at the Sector 56 police station.

• The conductor received a 20-year prison sentence and a 50,000 rupee fine. A university student received a three-year, seven-month, and three-week prison sentence for digitally raping an intoxicated friend, with a one-year non-parole period. These concerns aren’t exclusive to India. Every day brings more details concerning the case of digital rape. A college student was arrested for allegedly digitally raping a friend who was intoxicated and unable to object. A university student was imprisoned for digitally raping a friend. This was done to emphasise that women, regardless of intoxication, will have full legal protection. However, the judge did not utilise the woman’s intoxication as evidence to prove that she was also guilty of the crime. Instead, the offender was imprisoned to demonstrate that women are always entirely safe from criminals, regardless of their circumstances.

• In Noida, an 81-year-old man has been detained for raping a 17-year-old girl. He was allegedly a sketch artist and had been raping the girl since she was 10 years old. The girl’s family had sent her to live and study at the home of an elderly man. She was hesitant to report the incident at first, but eventually, she had confidence. She obtained video proof of the incident and went to the police. After an FIR was filed against him under Indian Penal Code Sections 376 (Rape), 323(Voluntarily causing harm), and 506 (Criminal Intimidation), the accused Maurice Ryder was arrested.

• Manoj Lala, a 50-year-old man from Noida, was sentenced to life imprisonment in August 2022 for digitally raping a baby girl who was seven months old. In yet another case from June 2022, a man from Noida was arrested after his mother filed a police report accusing him of digitally raping his five-year-old.


• The legal recognition of digital rape marks a significant step forward in justice, offering stronger protections for victims and enabling more effective legal responses. However, true progress depends on fostering comprehensive societal awareness and transforming attitudes. Creating a safe reporting environment and increasing public understanding of the seriousness of digital rape are crucial. By enforcing laws rigorously, improving education, and promoting proactive public discourse, India can make strides in preventing digital rape and securing justice for all affected


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