This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Vrinda Singh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

From Marital Rape To Adultery: 5 Indian Laws That Are Incredibly Sexist

More from Vrinda Singh

By Vrinda Singh:

featured_image_-_goi_v3Recently, a much-needed furore was created online about sexism in Bollywood songs. Well, sexism in Bollywood is a cause of concern, but, even more pitiable is the sexism inherent in our laws.

Laws are made to set standards of ideal behaviour for people. The idea of equality is shattered when the laws themselves reflect a sexist bias in them. The following are some of the laws that will make you think twice before you say “I live in a gender just India.”

1. Marital Rape

With the Indian capital city being called the rape capital of the world, the government seems to be unwilling to add this category to the definition of rape. Marital rape is considered alright in our country where one in five men have confessed to forcing their wives into sexual intercourse. The exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code reads “sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.” Ladies beware, because once you marry a man the idea of ‘no means no’ does not really exist. It appears that in India marriage gives husbands the licence to rape their wives.

2. Adultery

Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 198(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code lays down that only a man who has sexual intercourse with the wife of another man can be charged for adultery. Firstly, it is only the man who is charged for adultery. The rationale lies in the outdated mentality that a woman is a man’s property which could, in theory, be taken away by another man. Hence she cannot be accused of adultery. The idea is reinforced by the fact that a case can be registered only by aggrieved husbands. This means that married men who have an extra-marital affair with an unmarried woman cannot be prosecuted for adultery at all under Section 497.

3. Age Of Marriage

According to the Hindu Marriage Act, the legal age for marriage is 21 years for boys and 18 years for girls. You might wonder what is sexist about this. Well, everything. Why is there a difference between the legal age of marriage for a boy and a girl? This difference clearly implies the lawmaker’s belief that it is appropriate for boys to get married late so that they are financially independent by the time of marriage. However, the same is not required of girls. It smacks of the idea that girls are a burden on the parents who would want to marry them off as soon as possible. I am not advocating for an increase or reduction in the age. The only thing that is problematic is the difference in the marriageable age which speaks a lot about the blatant gender-based discrimination in Indian laws.

4. Marital Property

In India, there is no concept of marital property i.e. shared property of the husband and wife. After divorce, the court asks the earning spouse (generally the husband) to provide the wife with a nominal maintenance. Unless the property is registered in her name, the wife does not get a share in the property. Also, maintenance stops if the husband dies. Then what? The divorced wife has no property in her hands. Her contribution towards the household is not taken into consideration so as to distribute the property, at least that which was acquired during matrimony, in a proportional manner. Instead, everything remains with the husband and is inherited by his heirs.

5. Succession

Even after the numerous changes brought in The Hindu Succession Act with the 2005 amendment, a lot needs to be done. For instance, Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act states that the property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve upon (after her children and grandchildren) the heirs of her husband before her own parents. This clearly promotes the dominance of patriarchy in the institution of marriage by decreeing that a married woman is supposed to give primacy to her husband’s family over her own family.

As the adage says ‘Change begins from within,’ I think it is high time to make changes within the laws so that a gender just example could be set for the people to follow.

You must be to comment.
  1. Jigsaw

    I will not even comment on point 4. Hilarious.

  2. Guru

    Is this article for real? You think you are entitled to a share in a man's property just because you are a woman? Why is a man not entitled to a share in your property? All the Indian laws – adultery, domestic violence, rape, dowry – are incredibly sexist towards men. Innocent men being handed long jail sentences courtesy of women's lies.

    1. Saoirse

      We do. Property should br shared Equally between spouses.

    2. Guru

      If you are implying that a man's property must be shared, then you are guilty of a sexist attitude towards men, where they are seen as nothing more than ATMs and money earning slaves. Why don't women share their property with men?

    3. Vrinda Singh

      I am suggesting the idea of 'marital property' which means that any property earned after marriage by the husband or wife, should be divided equally between them on divorce. This system already exists in other countries. This will also remove the misuse of maintenance provision by women whereas you say that men are treated as 'ATM's'.

    4. Vrinda Singh

      Not man's property. But marital property i.e. the property earned after marriage. This is because the women contributes equally to the property in various ways during the marriage. Why should the man only get the right to keep the property.

  3. monistaf

    Marital rape is not covered under section 375 of the IPC, but it is covered under the domestic violence act of 2005. While I agree, it does not carry the same sentence if convicted under section 375, it is still against the law. If you truly are concerned about equality, why don't you protest the fact the a man in India cannot be a victim of rape. So, it is legal to rape men in India, except for some some draconian law that penalizes gays, which by the way is hardly ever enforced. So, Marital rape, is against the law, but raping a man is not.
    Adultery is also against the law, but only men can be prosecuted, because, in India, women are striped of all agency, accountability and responsibility. The frame of mind is that women have problems and men are the problem. Women, after all, can do no wrong!!
    Marital property – when was the last time a woman in India was asked to pay alimony or maintenance to a man. The law only permits the woman to be a recipient, not a donor. How convenient?
    You are right that the laws are incredibly sexist, but sexist against men.

    1. Vrinda Singh

      I am not saying that men do not face problems regarding the above mentioned issues. They do. And voice should be raise for them as well.
      However, this article is concerned only for women. And you cannot deny the fact that the above problems exist.
      We as society need to accept the problems faced by women, instead of just avoiding the issue by saying 'men face similar problems too'.

  4. shraddha

    On maintenance female do. get somepart even if her husband dies

  5. shraddha

    Female do get maintenance if her husband dies and father
    in-law is living

  6. Guru

    Previous comment is for Saoirse.

  7. Vishal Saurav

    Can you pls explain how a man earning 50,000/- PM and a women doing household works contribute equally in property earned after marriage??
    And you want law against ‘marital rape’, but want to ignore ‘marital extortion’ and ‘marital loot’ of men in name of maintaining his wife? After marriage, the ‘NO mean NO’ by men in economic aspect doesn’t hold any good and this is what we call ‘marital extortion’. A new concept!!!! Pls think over it. Don’t ‘loot’ and don’t get ‘rapped’ in marriage. But our law promotes both. Why to oppose only one??
    And saying that ‘marital property will eliminate misuse of maintenance law by wife, it means you are endoring misuse of law by women. It’s like saying legalise extortion or I will resort to extortion by other means.

  8. Ankit Shivhare

    No wonder it was all written by a woman or a wannabe feminist. Well, you have your opinions and I am fine with it, but what I am not fine with is the twisted way in which you have shown all laws to favor men only. The following are some of the laws that will make you think twice before you say “I live in a gender just India.”

    1. Marital Rape
    what is marital rape? Marital rape (or spousal rape) is the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent. It is a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I wish you had done a proper research before assuming that a rape, be it of any kind is gender-specific. Even if with a bit flaws, at least there is a law for women. As Vishal said in the previous comment, ‘marital extortion’, you think can be ignored because it suits your way of trying to be “Gender Just”.

    2. Adultery
    “Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 198(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code lays down that only a man who has sexual intercourse with the wife of another man can be charged for adultery. Firstly, it is only the man who is charged with adultery.” It was fine till here but then you try to reason the flaw in a twisted tone, objectifying women. Then you completely ignored the fact that, OMG yes! even women can have extra-marital affairs, and guess what, they can’t even be prosecuted for that. Your closing line was “This means that married men who have an extra-marital affair with an unmarried woman cannot be prosecuted for adultery at all under Section 497”, to this I would say that, please try to look at both sides of the coin, letting down your pseudo feminism for a while.

    3. Age Of Marriage
    Although the makers of law did not have anything to do with the scientific reason behind this, but the pubertal changes begin and end earlier in females as compared to males i.e. in girls from 10-13 to 15-18 and in boys from 12-15 to 18-21 years of age. Yes, this could be a reason law was not changed. You then talk about the idea of a girl being a burden to parents. I agree that this might be the mentality of some parents, but many parents also have a parallel mentality of letting their daughter, whether she’s working or not marry only with a well-established boy. Now see, this creates an ultimate pressure in a boy’s mind, to choose only high paying professions, after all, he’s expected to take care of his family financially. Both, fear of being unwanted, and also fear of disappointing the expectations, a person never promised to fulfill are not good.

    4. Marital Property
    As per old law when mutual consent is not there, the victim applies for the property share and the person who is the “bad person” has to respond to it. What you want is that even if the woman is at fault, still, she will get a share in the man’s property. Such laws will encourage more divorces as women can get hold of property easily for sure. One could agree to an alternative of dividing the property earned after marriage but, then, should it be equal, ignoring the fact that who was at fault? And as sraddha said, “Female do get maintenance if her husband dies and father-in-law is living”.

    5. Succession
    Section 15 of the Hindu Succession Act states that the property of a female Hindu dying intestate should devolve upon (after her children and grandchildren) the heirs of her husband before her own parents. If you say that this promotes the dominance of patriarchy, then you are really overthinking everything with the corrupted perspective you have about a marriage. What is a marriage? It is the law or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship who can have their own children. How on earth can children and grandchildren belong only to the husband? Are they not entitled to inherit the property owned by their mother.

    I could have easily ignored your opinions but you are so wrong that I could not.
    As the adage says ‘Change begins from within,’ I think it is high time to make changes in your attitude toward approaching such a sensitive topic such as this and try to see through the clouded pseudo-feminist fog that surrounds your thoughts. Then only we can talk about setting a just example.

More from Vrinda Singh

Similar Posts

By Javed Jaffri

By Samim Mollah

By Nalini Bhattar

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below