Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that deals with “unnatural sex” has been the subject of much debate and litigation over the past few years.
Data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveals that in over 60 per cent of cases registered under Section 377, the victims are children. In 2015, the data shows, as many as 1,347 cases were lodged under Section 377 across the country. In 814 of them, the victims were children.
The plight of children subjected to sodomy is further accentuated when one takes into account figures under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). According to NCRB, as many as 8,800 cases were registered under Section 4 and 6 of POCSO in 2015.
The two sections deal with “penetrative sex” and “aggravated penetrative sex” respectively. These could include oral, vaginal or anal sex.
According to the data, Uttar Pradesh (239), Maharashtra (159), Kerala (159) and Haryana (111) recorded the highest number of cases under Section 377. These were followed by Punjab (81).
The same trend was reflected in the number of cases under Section 377 where the victims were children.
While Uttar Pradesh accounted for 179 such cases, Kerala, Maharashtra and Haryana recorded 142, 116 and 63 cases, respectively.
The percentage of cases, in which children are victims, was higher in these states than the national average of 60. While children constituted 75 per cent of the victims in UP, they made up almost 90 per cent of victims in Kerala.
Under POCSO’s section 4 and 6, UP (1440), Gujarat (1115), Karnataka (1073) and West Bengal (1006) recorded the maximum number of cases.
Sources in police and NCRB, however, said it was erroneous on the part of police forces of various states to continue registering cases of rape and sodomy against children under relevant sections of IPC.
“When a specific Act has been created precisely for protection of children, offences must be registered under this Act. That would give us a comprehensive picture of such crimes against children. We could then put out a better and comprehensive data that would help formulate policies,” an NCRB officer said.
Police sources said this would also pave the way for a better understanding of Section 377 and its application.
“The biggest charge against Section 377 is that it can be used as an extortion tool by police against the LGBT community. In such cases, perhaps, no case is ever filed to reflect in data. So, if cases where children are victims are taken out of the equation, it could provide a better understanding of Section 377,” a police officer from UP said.