By Kunal Arora:
“Yes we talk about equal rights and respect in a relationship but by law we favour a man over women.”
Every now and then we have tried to bring change in the society by removing inequality, and uplift the status of women. It’s through the efforts of some courageous souls that we have reached so far, and erased numerous discrepancies in the political and legal system. By providing this positive environment to grow in we have made women stronger. From Indira Gandhi to Saina Nehwal, women have achieved new heights, showing the world what they are capable of and that no gender is superior to the other. Prevention of trafficking, dowry prohibition, National Commission for Women, all has added to provide a non-discriminating environment. But inspite all the efforts, from time to time dignity of Indian women still becomes a paradox, by law.
Since decades, we have been trying to restore equal rights in heterosexual relationships. And yet, on 18th Feb 2015 the Supreme Court of India rejected the plea of a woman, who had been sexually abused by her husband repeatedly. The honoured judges of the court commented, “You are stating a personal cause not a public cause”. Section 375 of Indian Penal Code puts down an exception clause as “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”. By law, a husband can sexually exploit the wife, and she cannot raise her voice against it. We are living in a country where a married man has the right to rape his wife, and the law doesn’t support her. Physical intimacy in a relationship is a matter of mutual concern and forcing someone against their wish is nothing but raping the partner.
Shockingly only 52 countries consider marital rape as a criminal offence, including 18 states in Unites States, New Zealand, Sweden and others but no other country supports women on the issue. About two-third of Indian women in the age group of 15 to 49 are forced to provide sex, raped or beaten, in accordance to the UN Population Fund. Another report by United Nations states the number of marital rapes reported is very less due to social stigma, the fear of being disowned by the family and honour killing.
Countries, where the status and dignity of women are based on virginity, are facing more problem. Asian and African countries, which have social and religious stigma attached to it, follow the practice of discrimination based on the woman’s virginity. This includes India, Taliban-Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Iraq, Sudan and many more. There are no cases being filed against the husband as they consider sex as the need of a man, and the behaviour of the wife can force the husband to rape her.
The case involved an attempt to rape on a minor in Madhya Pradesh, India in 2008; the Supreme Court stated that no mediation will take place in such an instance.
Rightly said, a human body is a temple in itself, and no compromises can be made in the case of rape. No mediation shall be considered, in working out the case outside the court, and without the supervision of a higher law authority. However, there are plenty of cases where the court has asked to settle the matter by mediation, putting respect of women at stake, such as the rape case of a minor, where the Madras High Court allowed mediation, saying that, “In fact, even in Islam, Hinduism and Christianity, there are instances of solving the disputes in a non-belligerent manner. The result of it is very good because there is ‘no victor, no vanquished’.”
Supreme Court by rejecting mediation in rape cases, is respecting women, and yet looking at the disparity in cases of rape within and outside of marriage, is bewildering. In one view, the apex court talks about respecting women and, on the other hand, marital rape pleas are rejected.
If we call marriage as holy then creating the same status for those within the institution is mandatory, and laws need to be amended and upheld for the same. I believe that women’s contribution to the society has always been more than men. A woman sacrifices her personal desires to keep her family as the priority because of religion and culture, and we need to honour and respect that. Many laws need to be altered but before that the mindset of the society needs drastic improvement.