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Does Marriage Entitle Someone To Have Sex With Their Partners Without Mutual Consent?

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By Shruti Aurangabadkar:

In a country where rape is still considered a matter of shame, met with suspicion rather than empathy, the law believes that rape is not possible in a marriage. The institution of marriage, it’s believed, implies that there is no need for consent between the participants. Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, DMK MP in Rajya Sabha, claimed that according to a UN Population Fund report, 75 per cent of married women in India were subjected to marital rape. Looking at the patriarchal Indian society and how female sexuality is a myth to many, it’s not surprising that this law enables violence against women.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

It raises the question whether marriage means being entitled to have sex with your partner, irrespective of their wishes and desires? The official answer appears to be yes, in support of the current Indian Penal Code, which exempts marital rape from being considered as rape—as long as the wife is more than 15 years of age. The female age of consent in India, determined on the basis of comprehension and understanding, is 18. So it’s legally possible to have sex with a girl who is under the age of consent, without any sort of repercussions.

#ItHappensOnlyInIndia?

When recently asked about the UN Committee’s recommendation to criminalise marital rape in India, the minister of state for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, said that looking at the context, the international concept of marital rape “isn’t applicable in the country”. Factors such as “level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, the mind-set of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament,” were cited as justifications for Indian marriages to presume sexual consent. One would assume, since there was illiteracy, poverty and all of the problems he set out, that it would be the responsibility of the government to protect any would-be victims of this circumstance. Apparently not.

Justice Verma Committee report set up in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya case suggested the removal of this exception, and even then the government hadn’t acquiesced, saying that such an amendment would ‘weaken traditional family values’. ‘Traditional family values’, probably being a reference to the absence of agency of women in the past; how they historically went from belonging to their fathers to their husbands but never to themselves. Statements like these, which normalise non-consensual sex in “special circumstances” are a symptom of the bigger problem, of ‘rape culture‘ in the society.

And it’s ‘values’ like these that result in events like German Professor rejects Indian student due to the country’s rape problem‘, that equally evoke both fury and embarrassment. India is currently the 4th in terms of Highest Rape Crimes in the world, with approximately a rape reported every 22 minutes. When laws which are meant to protect the vulnerable actually create loopholes for the ones with power, it is indisputable that India needs to take a long hard look at what ‘traditions’ it wants to protect, and why.

Sign this petition asking the government to to criminalise marital rape.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aditya

    One has to question the credibility of these reports. Although I agree with the points raised by author but I don’t believe in generalising this concept of inhuman tendency called rape through out our country. A whopping 75℅ means every 3rd girl out of 4 who is married is raped. Seriously can you believe this?
    Either review these UN reports thoroughly before writing and advertising India as a country of rapists or have a cup of coffee and think about something else to write.

  2. Pankaj

    No marriage does not entitle someone to have sex without mutual consent. Marital rape is a horrible crime. That having been said, the question of misuse is a real issue which many feminists avoid or deflect. Once you bring in such a law it is very likely to be misused for settling marital disputes as is already the case with laws like the dowry law, 377 etc. If this happens it will end up trivialising rape and society will start taking it less seriously. We are already seeing this with increasing number of cases of ‘rape on the pretext of marriage’ filed by women after a bad breakup. And yet feminists oppose any move to bring in a misuse provision that would deter false allegations using the plea that this would deter women from filing cases.

  3. thesteelguy

    This is a comment from my friend which I thought to be quite worthy of sharing-

    “According to Feminazi ki Awaaz 3 times out of 4 whenever your Daddy was being romantic with your mother, he was committing marital rape. Along with your Uncle, your male siblings and cousins. If not, you must be really lucky to be in that 25%! Hey but wait a minute! How come the wife of your milkman seems to be happy in her marriage? Surely he must be raping her. He’s the common 75% kinda guy. In fact his moustache proves he’s a rapist.”

  4. aakash

    what is need of marriage ?if there is no sex .option of frienship is always available .acc to high court ruling defintion of marriage is

  5. Voice of reason

    While the article is decent, what i would like to really stress is, is there a way by which you can distinguish sex with mutual consent and rape ( i am speaking from a scientific perspective). The reason i ask such a questions is, that if you actually do have a scientific method of establishing if the female was forced or not, then go ahead – make marital rape a crime ( which it is). However, in case you do not have any such methods available then please let us take a moment to think about the repercussions it may have, false cases of marital can wreak havoc on the life of the groom and his family, I think all of us would have read at least a few articles on how dowry laws have been mis-used over and over again, how people have committed suicides over the same issue. While I of course believe that any form of rape whether marital or not is extremely heinous, but passing a law without ensuring that it cannot be easily manipulated, will result in greater social problems

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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