A Feminist Critique of Indian Criminal Law

In: The Asian Yearbook of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law


Legal regulation of the conduct of women has been a subject of substantial interest for feminist jurisprudence. A review of the legal literature will reveal that the Indian legal discourse plainly lacks a feminist perspective. The hypothesis is that the penal law in India fails to conform to the expressive function of the law as far as regulation of the conduct of women is concerned. In this regard, two modes of legal regulation are characteristic to the Indian criminal law: gender discrimination (or exclusion) and paternalism. With four illustrative examples on rape, marital rape, adultery and insulting the ‘modesty’ provisions, the manner in which the legal system engages with woman’s identity, sexuality and agency is studied. It is further argued that the understanding of consent, especially in the Indian rape law, needs to be revised.


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