It is said that the worth of a civilization can be judged by the place given to women in the society. In India, we worship our strong, independent goddesses And I think no will deny the fact that women in India have made a considerable progress since independence.
Breaking the glass ceilings, recently two women (external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman) have become the members of the powerful cabinet committee on security (CCS). This news is also a perfect example of women empowerment in India.
But there is still a long road to travel… Even today’s women have to struggle against many social evils in the male dominated society. marital rape is one of those serious issues.
I’m sure after just reading the term ‘marital rape’, many people will start to label me as a feminazi, pseudo-feminist, Philistine, Misanthrope, etc etc. Why? because marital doesn’t exist. according to them it is just a concept/propaganda created by “feminazis”
well, numbers don’t lie :
According to statistics from National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), every day 93 women are being raped in the country.
And almost 98% of those were committed by someone known to the victim.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 75% of married women in India are subjected to marital rape.
the findings of the National Family Health Survey 2005-06 and found that 66 out of every 1,000 women experienced sexual violence perpetrated by their husbands. In comparison, only 1.6 out of 1,000 women had experienced sexual violence by men they were not married to.
Unfortunately, same people who were celebrating the ban on Triple Talaq are now talking against criminalizing marital rape. many of our fellow countrymen and even the government of India support marital rape.
India’s minister for women and child development, Maneka Gandhi, said in Parliament,
“It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/ illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, the mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc.”
In 2015, a news item quoted the same minister saying that
“My opinion is that violence against women shouldn’t be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness”
It is obvious that populist pressures have played a role in her altered stance. It is unfortunate that, even in the 21st century, India still has a significant number of voices against of criminalization of marital rape.
The central government recently told the Delhi High Court that they couldn’t criminalize marital rape because it would destabilize the institution of marriage apart from being an easy tool for harassing husbands”
…would destabilize the institution of marriage, Like seriously ?? Suppose even If we accept that we do have customs that legitimise the rape of a spouse. isn’t it the responsibility of the state to step in and destroy these values?
Our country has a history where the state had freed society from regressive social practices. A woman is essentially considered as chattel (owned by their fathers and then their husbands) who lacked the agency to make decisions for themselves. The vestiges of this mindset can be seen in the exception provided to marital rape.
When there is no legal right to beat, cheat or burn-alive a spouse then why the government is hesitating in acknowledging that forced sex with a spouse should not be seen as a husband’s (or anybody’s) legal right?
Do you want to read one more example of patriarchal hypocrisy?
Here’s one, Even consensual sex between 16 to 18 years old unmarried teenagers is considered as rape. But section 375(2) of IPC permits sexual intercourse with a girl child aged between 15 and 18 years, only on the ground that she has been married”.
That implies that under the exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC, A girl under 18 years of age is seen as a child in POCSO Act, but she is no more a child once she is married. This is totally erratic. The truth is that a girl under 15 is still a child, married or not. And I think the Parliament should protect every child.
I think this inconsistency in law is a reflection of Indian society. We have one “extremely important concept” when it comes to marriage: virginity of a girl. No matter how many women the boy has slept with, he wants a virgin wife, like somehow sexual activity, is the test for ‘purity’ and the owner should have a purity check. And hence girls are taught that premarital sex is a taboo.
No matter how many women the boy has slept with, he wants a virgin wife. somehow virginity becomes the test for ‘purity’ and the owner should have a purity check. And hence girls are taught that premarital sex is a taboo.
But when a girl gets married she is given a lot of advice as to how to be ‘dutiful’ to her husband. which means satisfying the man’s sexual needs. As the milestone of marriage is achieved, same parents start insisting for the next milestone, children, and motherhood. However, consent as a concept is rarely acknowledged. And since a woman is married, it cannot be called rape.
Sex without consent is Rape. Married or not.
The Justice J.S. Verma committee, the three-member panel, which was constituted to recommend amendments to criminal laws in the wake of the national outrage over the December 16 gang rape has said marriage or any other intimate relationship between a man and a woman is “not a valid” defense against sexual crimes like rape.
The committee even said that
“The fact that the accused and the victim are married or in another intimate relationship may not be regarded as a mitigating factor justifying lower sentences for rape.”
“According to the common law of coverture, a wife was deemed to have consented at the time of the marriage to have intercourse with her husband at his whim. Moreover, this consent could not be revoked,” the committee said.
Counter-Arguments for criminalizing of marital rape and my reply to those:
1. why do we need a law against marital rape when the Domestic Violence Act includes sexual abuse?
Currently, any case of marital rape must be fought under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, which is a civil, and not a criminal law. This means, that even if the husband is found guilty he cannot be convicted of rape, only domestic abuse. Even when marital rape is recognized as a crime, the judges might regard marital rape as less serious than other forms of rape, requiring more lenient sentences, as happens in South Africa.
Civil protection under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 isn’t enough. Criminalising marital rape will be a step in the right direction to protect the rights of women.
2. Don’t you think the law will be misused by wives?
I’ll ask a counter question to those who ask such questions…
How nonsense you are to think it’s better to allow rape than risk allegedly false accusations of rape?
There is no doubt that the law should incorporate checks against flagrant misuse. However, a presumption of misuse of a law, in this case, is far outweighed by the harm caused by not having a law. I don’t know why such presumptions pop up in numbers only when it comes to laws related to women. And I think such presumption should not prevent the legitimising of the right of women to seek justice for violations against her body.
Yet these presumptions can not be totally neglected. In that case, I would cite the example of domestic violence act, which is allegedly widely misused. The apex court recently had issued a new set of directives which said that there has to be Family Welfare Committees (FWC) in each district of each state that will have the job of verifying each complaint. Also, no arrests should be made without verification. There has been talking as to how practical this solution is, and if it can be really implemented (especially the FWCs). On the similar grounds, this law will also evolve with time.
Change may take decades, but the process must start!
3. marital rape as understood internationally cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level(s) of education/illiteracy, poverty.
This one is total bullshit. Does being poor or illiterate make it easier to live with the threat of being sexually assaulted?
Attitudinal change is what we need.
UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recommended to India that marital rape should be criminalized.
While declaring privacy a fundamental right for every Indian citizen, the Supreme Court brought up the issue of “her control over the body” quite a few times.
Justice Verma committee has also recommended the criminalization of marital rape.
So, there should not be any hesitation in criminalizing marital rape. It is also important that the legal prohibition on marital rape should be accompanied by changes in the attitudes of law enforcement agencies and society to enable women to come forward without fear, but that is again a completely different ball game and I think I have already made this post a ridiculously-lengthy one and hence I think I should stop here.
There has always been a social stigma attached to discussing taboo social issues and that’s why many of us don’t know how to talk about such issues. So, I would like to request you to see the bigger picture before commenting…