By Ritica Ramesh:
There is something to be said about the Indian law. While a beautiful piece of literature, it is somewhere stuck in a time warp that doesn’t take the realities of today into account.
A couple of months ago, while I interned for a short period of time at an IP law firm in India, I picked up a book detailing the IPC and its clauses. As I rummaged through a couple of articles, I came across Section 375 which defined and described the heinous sexual offence, rape. As I stared at the page, a million thoughts rushed through my head. The wording was unbelievable, the gender bias-unacceptable, and the lack of rational reasoning was nothing short of distressful. “A man is said to commit “rape” if he…” Let’s just stop right there and analyse these words. In a country populated by 1.25 billion inhabitants, the very possibility of a woman committing rape is not acknowledged. A rape victim is a rape victim regardless of what sex they are. Male survivors already face a massive lack of legal aid and are deafened by social stigma. The Indian Parliament has quite irrationally declared that women are incapable of being perpetuators simply because rape arises from pure patriarchy and male privilege. Just a couple of years ago, a man in Dehradun claimed to have been gang raped by a group of woman who also recorded the act. The incident garnered very minimal media attention, and to this date, there is no report about the outcome of the case. Under the present scenario, the Indian law stands biased towards one gender and is unfair.
Moving ahead I noticed this – Exception#2 of the IPC states that “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.” The Justice Verma Commission did suggest that marital rape be recognised as an equally atrocious crime. This, however, was swiftly rejected by the Parliament on the grounds of culture and tradition. The Parliament jointly stated that “for ages, the family system has evolved and it is moving forward. Family is able to resolve the problems and there is also a provision under the law for cruelty against women. It was, therefore, felt that if the marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress and the Committee may perhaps be doing more injustice.”
Voluntarily committing to a marriage doesn’t tantamount to one involuntarily agreeing to acts of sexual assault. Marital rape could be happening to someone close to you and you might be aware of it, but the law offers no recourse. Marriage should not be allowed to become a legal license for rape.
We live in the 21st century and as we adjust to changes, our judicial system needs to adapt to them too. It is unnerving that we turn a blind eye to several survivors of sexual abuse every single day simply because age old laws do not permit them to seek justice. The question we must all ask ourselves is why we allow and give the government the right to deny us of certain rights even when we’re aware of its repercussions.
I’ve decided to do something about this. I urge you all to sign this petition that I’ve started to rectify this injustice. Each signature counts and the click of a button could save somebody’s life. Let’s make a change, for I hope to wake up to a safer, more accepting tomorrow.