Legal Articles

Outraging the Modesty of a Woman and Rape are two different Crimes

To constitute the offence of rape it is not at all necessary that there should be complete penetration of the male organ with emission of semen and rupture of hymen. Even partial or slightest penetration of the male organ within the labia majora or the vulva or pudenda with or without any emission of semen or even an attempt at penetration into the private part of the victim would be quite enough for the purpose of Sections  375 and 376 of IPC. That being so it is quite possible to commit legally the offence of rape even without causing any injury to the genitals or leaving any seminal stains.

The crux of the offence under Section 376 IPC is rape and it postulates a sexual intercourse. The word “intercourse” means sexual connection. It may be defined as mutual frequent action by members of independent organization. By a metaphor the word “intercourse” like the word “commerce” is applied to the relation of sexes. In intercourse there is temporary visitation of one organization by a member of the other organization for certain clearly defined and limited objects. The primary object of the visiting organization is to obtain euphoria by means of a detent of the nerves consequent on the sexual crisis. There is no intercourse unless the visiting member is enveloped at least partially by the visited organization, for intercourse connotes reciprocity. In intercourse between thighs the visiting male organ is enveloped at least partially by the organism visited, the thighs; the thighs are kept together and tight.

In order to constitute rape, what Section 375 IPC requires is medical evidence of penetration, and therefore, rape may occur even though the hymen remains intact. In view of the explanation to Section 375, mere penetration of penis in vagina is an offence of rape. Slightest penetration is sufficient for conviction under Section 376 IPC. The position of law in England is the same. To constitute the offence of rape, there must be a penetration.

In Halsbury’s Statutes of England and Wales, 4th Edition, Vol. 12, it is stated that even the slightest degree of penetration is sufficient to prove sexual intercourse.

In Encyclopaedia of Crime and Justice (Vol. 4 page 1356), it is stated “… even slight penetration is sufficient and emission is unnecessary.”

Penetration is the sine qua non for an offence of rape. In order to constitute penetration, there must be evidence clear and cogent to prove that some part of the virile member of the accused was within the labia of the pudendum of the woman, no matter how little.

So far as the offence under Section 3541 IPC is concerned, intention to outrage the modesty of the woman or knowledge that the act of the accused would result in outraging her modesty is the gravamen of the offence. The essence of a woman’s modesty is her sex. The culpable intention of the accused is the crux of the matter. The reaction of the woman is very relevant, but its absence is not always decisive. Modesty is an attribute associated with female human beings as a class. It’s a virtue which attaches to a female owing to her sex. ‘Modesty’ is defined as “womanly propriety of behaviour, scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct (in man or woman); reserve or sense of shame proceeding from instinctive aversion to impure or coarse suggestions.”

The ultimate test for ascertaining whether the modesty of a woman has been outraged, assaulted or insulted is that the action of the offender should be such that it may be perceived as one which is capable of shocking the sense of decency of a woman. A person slapping on the posterior of a woman in full public glare would amount to outraging her modesty for it was not only an affront to the normal sense of feminine decency but also an affront to the dignity of the lady.  The word ‘modesty’ is not to be interpreted with reference to the particular victim of the act, but as an attribute associated with female human beings as a class.

What the legislature had in mind when it used the word ‘modesty’ in Sections  354 and 5092 of the Indian Penal Code was protection of an attribute which is peculiar to a woman. Modesty is the attribute of female sex and she possesses it irrespective of her age. The two offences were created not only in the interest of the woman concerned, but in the interest of public morality as well. The question of infringing the modesty of a woman would, of course, depend upon the customs and habits of the people. Acts which are outrageous to morality would be outrageous to modesty of woman. No particular yardstick of universal application can be made for measuring the amplitude of modesty of woman, as it may vary from country to country or society to society.

The culpable intention of the accused is the crux of the matter. The reaction of the woman is very relevant, but its absence is not always decisive, as for example, when the accused with a corrupt mind stealthily touches the flesh of a sleeping woman. She may be an idiot, she may be under the spell of anaesthesia, she may be sleeping, she may be unable to appreciate the significance of the act, nevertheless, the offender is punishable under section 509.


  1. 354. “Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.- Whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.”
  2. 509. “Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.—Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.”

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