Rape Is A Legal Term And Not A Medical Condition 

When a touch that makes a woman uncomfortable can be counted as sexual harassment, an act as grave as rape cannot be out ruled just because there are fewer or no signs of injury.

Rudrani Gupta
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Rape Is A Legal Term And Not A Medical Condition 
When rape happens, we focus on everything but the trauma and humiliation the woman has to endure. We fumble for evidence that proves rape but never trust the conviction of the person who is raped. Rape in itself is a horrifying experience, it is the worst kind of humiliation meted out to a human body, but what is more regretful is the shameful way in which society approaches the survivor.

Medical examinations, social scrutiny and lack of support are ways how society makes it difficult for the one who is already been wronged. How long will we focus on proving rape rather than convicting the perpetrator? Whether rape happened or not depends on the sufferer and the legislation. Then why do we term it a condition that can be diagnosed or proved? Why is the onus on the survivor to prove rape and not on the perpetrator to prove they are not guilty.

Rape is a legal term and not a medical condition 

In a landmark judgement, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court ruled that rape is a legal term and not a medical condition to be diagnosed by examinations. In the case, a man who was accused of raping his four-year-old niece in 2018 defended his point by saying that medical examination hasn't proved that there was rape. It just said that sexual assault can be a 'possibility'. However, the court, led by Justice Anil Kilor, rejected the claim and stated, "…rape is a crime and not a medical condition. Rape is a legal term and not the diagnosis to be made by the medical officer treating the victim. The only statement that can be made by the medical officer is to the effect whether there is evidence of recent sexual activity whether the rape has occurred or not is a legal conclusion, not a medical one."

Moreover, the convict appealed against his charges by saying that he had not penetrated the girl's private parts, so the rape charges were invalid. To this, the court reinstated Supreme Court's judgment in October which stated that sexual harassment is not just about penetration. "Penetrative sexual assault, for the purpose of the relevant provision, does not require deep or complete penetration. The slightest amount of penetration would suffice for the purpose. The medical examination report revealed penetration…," the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Wanlura Diengdoh had said.

Why The Survivor's Testimony Should be Enough

These two judgments clearly show that rape cannot be defined using objective terms. It is a subjective experience in which the sufferer is the only evidence. Often, medical examinations prove that because the survivor had an orgasm during the unsolicited &t=26s" target="_blank" rel="noopener">penetration, it cannot be counted as rape. But what about the psychological scars? What about sexual coercion and marital rapes?


If a person claims rape even if there is no severe injury of the private parts, their claim will be considered valid. The medical examination might prove no signs of protest, but this doesn't mean rape didn't happen. Rape is a sexual act that happens without consent or by forced consent. No matter how the body reacts to the act if it is non-consensual, it is rape.

It is sad that even after being one of the top countries with the highest rape statistics, we are stuck at understanding what rape is. Rather than focusing on the perpetrator, we constantly examine the sufferer's claim.

Yes, a medical expert's opinion is important but the court should only pass judgements not the medical expert. The purpose of the medical examination is to state how the sufferer's body reacted to the act. It will not be wrong here to say that when a touch that makes a woman uncomfortable can be counted as sexual harassment, an act as grave as rape cannot be out ruled just because there are fewer or no signs of forced entry or a two-finger test feels the woman is habitual to sexual intercourse. We need to be more understanding towards the survivor because if their conviction is ignored, we will deny justice. 

Views expressed are the author's own.

Bombay High Court Sexual harassment