In 2013, when India was still boiling over with rage against the Nirbhaya gang rape and other cases, a fake message started doing rounds on messaging services, that has recurred time and again since then. And now, in the wake of several brutal rapes across the country – including in Unnao and in Kathua – the message seems to be making the rounds once again; it claims that one ‘Section 233’ of the Indian Penal Code has been amended to given women the right to kill someone who tries to rape her.
The message is being circulated on WhatsApp, and in the form of emails. It says: “Finally a new law passed by Modi govt today. As per Indian Penal Code 233. If a girl is suspected to be raped or getting raped, then she has the supreme right to kill the man,injure his sexual part or harm that person as dangerously and girl won't be blamed for murder.”
This is followed by what is described as an expert’s guideline to ensure safety for women at all places.
However, Section 233 of the IPC that the message mentions has got nothing to do with rape. In fact is not even minutely related to gender based violence, or even self-defence.
Section 233 in The Indian Penal Code talks about making or selling instruments for counterfeit coins.
The message clearly is factually incorrect and misleading. Speaking to The News Minute, advocate and activist Sudha Ramalingam says that no such new law has been passed. However, talking about self defence, she says, “There is a Right of Private Defence of body in the Indian Constitution and those apprehensive that their lives are in danger can exercise this right.” This law – Section 100 of IPC – can be exercised by anyone and not just women, she adds.
Section 100 of the IPC states: “When the right of private defence of the body extends to causing death.—The right of private defence of the body extends, under the restrictions mentioned in the last preceding section, to the voluntary causing of death or of any other harm to the assailant, if the offence which occasions the exercise of the right be of any of the descriptions hereinafter enumerated.”
The clauses under which this act is applicable include assault with the intention of kidnapping, wrongful confinement, acid attack or attempt of acid attack, rape and gratifying unnatural lust. Those apprehensive that an assault will lead to death or cause grievous injury can also use the right.
This is not the first time such messages are floating around on various media platforms. A similar message was spread in 2013, and again in 2015.
To understand how Section 100 works, read this story: She killed her ex- husband to save her family, how this TN woman has turned her life around
This story was first published on February 25, 2015, and is being republished since the message is doing the rounds once again.