What is Sexual Violence ?

Sexual violence isn’t limited to just physical harm. The law was changed in 2013, and now sexual violence could mean anything from sexual harrasment, assault, voyeurism, stalking to trafficking and more forms of rape.

What is an FIR?

An FIR is a First Information Report. It is an account of the crime committed from the survivor’s perspective, and is the first document that needs to be prepared by the police to initiate investigations. The survivor need not be the one who files the FIR.

A witness to the incident, or a friend who has sufficient knowledge of the crime, can also file an FIR on the survivor’s behalf. But it is crucial that they do so only once they have her full consent, along with her willingness to be part of the investigation that will follow. Otherwise, the reporting can exclude and disempower the survivor.

Ideally, the survivor, after seeking as much support as needed, should feel empowered enough to make a decision about reporting. While every woman who has experienced sexual violence has the right to report, whether she decides to do so or not, is ultimately her choice.

How to file an FIR

An FIR can be registered at any police station. The report will then be transferred to the station it concerns. Additionally, the complainant need not be physically present to start the process of lodging an FIR- she can call or send an e-mail.If the woman is mentally or physically disabled, either temporarily or permanently, the police officer must go to her home
or a place convenient for her to register the complaint. If the offence registered is rape, the same procedure is applicable.

In the case of offences like sexual harassment, voyeurism, stalking,
rape & gang rape,
the report must only be recorded by a woman police officer.

What is the Process ?

You can file an FIR either in


  • OR

The officer preparing the report needs to make a written copy. Filing the FIR as soon as possible after the incident enables more detailed reporting, increases the report’s credibility in the eyes of the police,and facilitates timely action. Any delay may require additional explanation. While filing the FIR, ensure that the basic details–date, place and time–are mentioned.

...

Be as detailed and explicit as possible

Euphemisms don’t help and the police may question you until they get all the information they require for an investigation. If you’re unaware of legal details about offences, don’t hesitate to inform the officer. But knowing the law before registering a complaint could ensure that the FIR is registered accurately.

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Always cross-check details in your report

Once the report is prepared, it is mandatory for the officer to read it back to you so that you can verify that your account has been taken down exactly the way it was narrated. If the officer does not read it out, ask them to do so.
Don’t hesitate to ask for changes to be made; ensure that the report is as clear and accurate as it can.

...

Get your own copy

Only the person filing the FIR (be it the complainant or her representative/relative/friend) needs to sign the original FIR. The survivor or their representative should receive a copy within 24 hours. Your copy will contain an FIR Number, which acts as a reference for all future follow-ups. Once this is handed over, the process of filing the FIR is complete.

The right to report is yours. And there are provisions in place to help you exercise this right.

Can the Police refuse to file an FIR?

No. Under no circumstances can you be refused the right to file an FIR.
There are laws in place to protect this right—police personnel can face a penalty of up to two years of imprisonment for refusal to file an FIR. If a police officer or police station refuses to register an FIR you can appeal to a higher authority (for instance an SP or DCP). If they refuse, then go to a magistrate (for example District Magistrate, Chief Judicial Magistrate or Chief Metropolitan Magistrate)

What happens next?

Once you receive a copy of the FIR, the Investigating Officer should produce the survivor in front of a magistrate to record their statement within 24 hours. Technically, the investigation starts as soon as the FIR is registered. After the investigation, if the police believe there is enough evidence for the suspect to be prosecuted, a charge sheet will be filed.You are entitled to a court-appointed lawyer, however it can be helpful to consult your own lawyer help you through the next steps. Just make sure you take a copy of your FIR along for the lawyer to review. The survivor can get updates on the status of investigation from the Investigation Officer. But don’t wait to hear back. Take the initiative and follow up with the police to stay informed.

FAQS

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Indian law does not specifically recognise the fact that men can be victims of sexual violence. The laws dealing with sexual harassment, disrobing, stalking and voyeurism, explicitly refer to men as the perpetrators of these crimes and women as victims. Similarly, Section 375 of the IPC, which deals with the definitions of rape and legal provisions against it, has no mention of rapes against men. It starts with “A man is said to commit “rape”..” and goes on to define what rape would constitute in such a case, rape of a woman.

The only legal redress available to male survivors could be Section 377 of the IPC. However, this law is problematic as it makes no distinction between consensual and non-consensual sex between two men.

Marital rape is still not punishable by law, and Amnesty International has previously called for amendments in the law to reflect this. The law continues to retain a rape exception when committed by a man on a wife who is over 15 years of age. Only rape committed within a marriage when the spouses are living separately can be punished, and then with a lower sentence than that given to rape outside a marriage.

However, an aggrieved wife may file a civil case under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 alleging sexual violence.

Medical examinations can only be done with the survivor’s consent. The Supreme Court in 2014 banned the two-finger test to determine rape, and international standards state that any medical tests done should be non-invasive.

If the survivor does consent, then the tests must only be done by a registered medical practitioner. All hospitals are mandated to give free first aid to treatment to survivors, and are mandated under the law to report the incident to the police.

After the gang-rape in New Delhi in December 2012, the Indian Penal Code was amended in 2013 (through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013) to include new definitions of what constitutes sexual violence & harassment that is punishable by law.

Sexual harassment (354A): includes physical contact involving sexual overtures, requesting sexual favours, showing pornography against the woman’s will, making ‘sexually coloured’ remarks Assault (354B): includes using criminal force, or attempting to disrobe a woman.

Voyeurism (354C): includes watching, capturing or sharing images of women engaged in a private act, against her will or without her consent

Stalking (354D): includes following, contacting a woman repeatedly even after she clearly indicates her disinterest

Trafficking (370): includes recruitment, transporting, harbouring, transferring or receiving a person for the purpose of exploitation; using threats, force,deception, abuse of power or through giving or receiving payments

Rape (375): includes penetration of penis, penetration of any other part into the woman’s vagina or forcing her to do so with him or someone else, manipulation of any part of her body to cause vaginal, anal penetration or penetration of any other body part, application of his mouth on a woman’s vagina, anus, urethra or forcing her to do so with him or anyone else; without the woman’s consent.

For detailed definitions of the above offences, you can read the actual Amendment Act.