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Incest is any sexual intercourse between close relatives irrespective of the age of the accomplice and irrespective of their consent. Certain degrees of relationships, such as father-daughter, mother-son, brother-sister, etc., are seen as pious. There should be no incestuous rape in these relationships. With frightening consequences like psychological damage, suicide, drug addiction, honour killing, and prostitution, incestuous rape is on the rise. 

The irreversible loss of trust occurs in incestuous rape. Due to the family members’ infidelity, the sufferer is destroyed. The outcomes are horrifying and revolting in that some people become emotionally and psychologically disturbed while others become disobedient or delinquent. Incest has become widespread in today’s culture, but it is not widely disclosed out of concern for the family’s good reputation. Due to guilt for breaking a law against both man’s and God’s rules, as well as embarrassment because incest is understood to be taboo or forbidden between two people who are related by blood.[1]


The word incest comes from the Latin word, incestuous, which means “impure” or “unchaste”. The term “incest” refers to sexual relationships between people with a direct consanguineous connection, such as between siblings, parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, or anybody related to the other person biologically or consanguineously. This frequently applies to cousins, yet the closer they are, the more subjectively the relationship will be assessed.  Nearly all civilisations view incest as culturally unacceptable, illegal, and taboo, always favouring exogamy (sex between members of other family groups) over inbreeding.

The prevalence of incest episodes in society is a startling fact and a brutal reality. Although we don’t often discuss cases of child sexual abuse and incest, these issues definitely exist in our culture. It affects many people, not just in slums and among the poorer sections of society, but also in well-educated, affluent households. Due to the stigma and pain attached to this terrible crime, it is fairly difficult to determine the true statistics. According to renowned sociologist M.N. Srinivas, child sexual abuse is widespread but has eluded researchers because of their fear of being stigmatised, especially in middle-class and upper-class families.[2]


Incest-rape has detrimental effects on every individual. Here are a few of them:

Impact on health: Incest poses a health and birth danger. Because an incest couple’s genetic code lacks diversity, their newborn child is more likely to have an immune problem. As a result, several innate physical and mental defects, including albinism, fumarase deficiency, the Habsburg jaw, haemophilia, and Philadelphia, may result. More importantly, a large percentage of babies are born to rape-incest mothers

Impact on the mind: Most incest rape victims were paralysed by terror and unable to object when their fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and sons forced them to have sex. The fact that incest victims do not enjoy that their humiliation is brought to the public’s attention makes it even harder for them to free themselves from this assault. Because of this, a large number of incest victims experienced extreme stress throughout their entire lives and suffered from mental breakdowns.

Social impact: Incest is a crime against humanity. It is a shame to public morality, even if the incest partners agree to it and neither of them is considered a victim. An incestuous connection is dishonourable for the family’s reputation, and as a result, the family will be excluded from society.


Statistics: The scope of the issue is indeed startling and astounding. According to a survey conducted by RAHI (Recovering and Healing from Incest), a Delhi-based organisation working on the issue of child sexual abuse under the title Voices from the Silent Zone, 76% of respondents had experienced abuse as children, with 40% of those incidents occurring by a family member. According to the results of a BBC investigation, one in ten of the women who participated in the study reported experiencing some form of sexual abuse as children at the hands of known individuals, such as their fathers, uncles, doctors, and counsellors[3].

Barriers to disclosure: Since the abuser is a well-known somebody who is trusted and is frequently in a position of authority over the victim, victims of incest are typically reluctant to disclose the crime. On occasion, the victim receives threats for keeping the “secret.” The victims frequently don’t even tell their parents what happened. In circumstances where the victim is very young, she may not even be aware that the incestuous behaviour is improper. Sometimes the victim may be reluctant to report it out of concern that they will be held accountable and punished or that they won’t be believed. According to the article “Voices from the Silent Zone,” which is based on a survey carried out by the Delhi organisation RAHI, disbelief, denial, and cover-up to protect the family’s reputation are frequently prioritised over the needs of the individual child[4].

Legal perspective: It is not enough for an action to be morally repugnant or socially forbidden; it must also be formally recognised to be a criminal by the law. There is no current law that makes incest a crime. Incestuous relationships may attract provisions of other sexual offences like sodomy, rape, etc. even when there is no specific legislation or IPC clause that expressly deems them to be illegal. Therefore, even if it is socially objectionable and frowned upon, a person cannot be held criminally accountable or punished for engaging in an incestuous relationship.

Consequently, it is not illegal for two consenting adults to have an incestuous relationship. By doing so, they may violate societal feelings even though they are not breaking any laws. Additionally, incest is to some extent illegal according to various personal laws.

  1. Incest is not a crime that is sanctioned by law or specifically mentioned in any statutes.
  2. The IPC’s definition of “rape[5]” is overly narrow and excludes various forms of sexual assault outside intimate relations. 
  3. It is not a provision that is gender-neutral.
  4. Incest is not a crime according to the IPC. Only sodomy[6] and rape are subject to conviction.
  5. IPC does not recognise child sexual abuse when the attacker is frequently a trusted friend or acquaintance of the victim.
  6. Section 354[7] of the IPC, which prohibits “outraging the modesty of women,” covers the majority of sexual offences against women, including incest.
  7. The IPC’s Section 354[8] is a bailable offence, making it a less serious and strict offence.
  8. Additionally, the most recent juvenile justice law does not acknowledge incestual sexual assault.
  9. Sexual abuse is not addressed in Section 5[9] of the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act of 1956, which penalises the encouragement of child prostitution.


Incest is not a crime according to Indian law. According to the Indian Penal Code, it is typically classified as rape, sexual assault, sodomy, and child abuse. In India, incestuous rape has disgusting repercussions, such as honour killings, psychological damage, prostitution, delinquency, and mistrust. Both the immediate victim and the perpetrator are victims of the trauma that follows such crimes. An act done in a fit of rage mutilates the offender’s entire family and all of their previous relationships. The venomous deed that the offender performed cannot be undone by the subsequent remorse that comes over the offender. There is an urgent need to address this issue.

To achieve long-term solutions and to creatively explore the choices available in the Indian Penal Code, Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, Juvenile Justice Act, etc., there is an urgent need for comprehensive revisions.  In the short and long terms, current sentencing guidelines and executive institutional arrangements like Child Welfare Acts can help to lessen the pain of incestuous rape victims.

An analysis of the current situation in India shows that incestuous rape incidents are rising quickly, so it is necessary at this time to seriously examine the existing laws to lessen the pain of the victims by creating separate and strong legislation to address the problem with suitable corrective actions.

Author(s) Name: P Pravallika (PG College of Law, Basheer Bagh, Hyderabad)


[1] Arceli R. Milla, et al., ‘Incest Victims: A Case Study’ (Crossref, 18 September 2018) <> accessed 17 January 2023

[2] M.N. Srinivas, ‘Sexual Abuse of Children: Hidden Peril’ (India Today) (31 October1992) 101

[3] Amarjit Kaur ‘Socio-Cultural Norms About Girl-Child Must Change’  (Kurukshetra) (08 September 1990) 37

[4] Daniel Lak ‘India’s Hidden Incest’ (BBC News) (02 January 1999)

[5] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 375

[6] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 377

[7] Indian Penal Code 1860, s 354

[8] Ibid

[9] Immoral Traffic Prevention Act 1956, s 5