Jurisprudence all over the world recognizes rape as an offence. It means carnal knowledge of a woman against her will.In India the British enacted the Indian Penal Code in 1860 and incorporated the offence of rape, punishable with a prison term up to 7 years. This is now amended to life in prison and death in heinous cases.

However down history no religion recognized rape as a offence. In Hindu Jurisprudence based on the Laws of Manu  as encoded in the Manusmiriti, there is no mention of rape. It is as if the crime was never committed. On the other hand there are passages in the Manusmiriti that allow by right a man from a higher caste ( Brahmin) to enter a house of a Shudra or lower caste  and have intercourse with the wife and daughter of Shudra. It was not an offence, but a Shudra even touching a high caste woman could merit the death penality. 

Even in Hebrew and Christian thought there are some allusions to rape, but the offence as such was never defined. The arrival of Muhammed changed all that. In the Koran from which the Sharia is derived, Islamic jurisprudence recognized the offence of rape. This was the first instance of a religion recognizing the offence of rape.

At the time this law was framed the Muslim armies were trampling all over the world and one of the main reasons for this law to be enacted was to stop the armies from raping women. Taking slaves and women as wives is not covered under this defination.

Islamic jurists thus stipulated the requirement of 4 male witnesses to the crime. This was possible at a time when war was  on and the soldiers carrying out these crimes could be easily identified. But I will agree that this requirement of 4 male witnesses in modern times is an anachronism as rape in all probability would be committed in secret or private and no winesses may be available.

Never the less, it has to be accepted that Islamic jurisprudence was the first to recognize and define rape as an offence and also the punishment that is to be awarded for it.  It is not a foolproof law and for that reason is discarded by most Islamic nations as well. Unfortunately Pakistan has re-inforced this law with the Hudood Ordinance that has put rape outside the purview of the Pakistan Penal Code and under the Sharia.  In India the Sharia is not valid for criminal offenses and it required the English  to  thrust the law down  the throat of the Hindus to recognize rape as an offence.


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