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The State’s Ignorance Of Marital Rape Reveals How ‘Customs’ Are Valued More Than Consent

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By Suvarna Bhattacharya:

A man holds a placard during a silent rally to protest against the rape of a photo journalist by five men in Mumbai August 25, 2013. Indian police have arrested all five suspects in connection with the gang-rape of a photo journalist in Mumbai last week, a senior official said on Sunday, in a case that has revived uncomfortable questions about women's safety. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui (INDIA - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST) - RTX12W0M
Image credit: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui.

It is saddening to know that marital rape is still legal in India. The reason given for not criminalising it is even more distressing, and that is the Indian tradition and value system. The fact that custom is valued more than consent is enough to make us understand how far we are from realising real societal reform. In a country like ours where we are moving forward in terms of economic development, social development has taken a back seat. The question thus raised is, can we really ensure the growth of India if the mindset plaguing this country is not done away with?

Neither our judiciary nor our political parties have ever taken a tough stand on the issue of marital rape being treated as a criminal offense. The stance taken by Maneka Gandhi of the BJP is not new or unique to the party but is also shared by various other political parties. For example, after the Nirbhaya gang rape protests, the Congress-led UPA government appointed a three-member commission headed by Justice J.S. Verma to introduce necessary recommendations to deal with the malignant issue of sexual violence. The Commission had recommended criminalisation of marital rape but it was sadly ignored by the party back then.

If we take into consideration the institution of marriage in the Indian context, then, the position of a wife is always considered subordinate to that of her husband. Even though both the husband and the wife are expected to work towards ensuring spiritual and sexual gratification together, the wife always has to occupy the position below that of her husband’s. Marriage is considered a sacrament wherein a wife submits herself to the will of the husband. Sex becomes a right for the husband and he has every right to demand it from his wife irrespective of whether the partner is willing or not. These customs may have made sense when they had taken birth but can we justify the same practice in the present context? They may not make sense to me and numerous people reading this article but they still do to a major chunk of our Indian population.

Leaving aside the traditional beliefs, a typical misconception that also tends to harm the society as a whole is that men are naturally inclined to sexual gratification hence it is very natural for them to be overtly demanding of the same. It totally chooses to ignore the fact that females too are creations of nature just like males are and that they too have sexual needs. It also encourages men to go to any extent imaginable, or unimaginable, to meet their sexual needs and assert their power and dominance over their female counterparts.

According to a survey conducted by the United Nations in the year 2013, a quarter of 100,000 men from the Asia Pacific region including India admitted to having forced sexual intercourse upon their wives since they felt they were entitled to it. Similarly, another survey by the National Family and Health Survey revealed that 93% of women who faced sexual abuse admitted to having been raped by their current or former husbands. What is even more alarming is the fact that less than 1% of these women decided to file a police complaint against their spouses. And even if they did, it is a known fact that they could not have demanded criminal prosecution on the grounds of marital rape simply because our legal system does not treat rape by husbands as rape.

Despite stories coming out into the open that wives died during violent acts of sex being forced upon them, insertion of foreign objects into their vaginas and so on and so forth, no concrete step has been taken to ensure that this gargantuan malevolence is curbed.

Many are of the view that if at all marital rape is treated as a criminal offense, it will be misused by many just like section 498A of the Indian Penal Code is. Another argument put forward by many, quite foolish to be taken into consideration, is that rape by a husband will be difficult or impossible to prove. For the latter argument, many experts have argued that rape by the husband can be proven just the way any other case of rape is proven. As far as the former argument is concerned, just because certain laws are misused by a certain section of the population, does it mean marital rape should not be treated as a criminal act at all? Shouldn’t an innocent victim of sexual abuse expect judicial relief from an abusive relationship? People who are responsible for the efficient running of this country should take solid measures to ensure both judicial as well as societal reform.

In conclusion, all I would like to do is quote Ambedkar to further strengthen my argument. “Rights are protected not by law but by the social and moral conscience of society… if fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no Law, no Parliament, no judiciary, can guarantee them in the real sense of the word.”

You must be to comment.
  1. Harry

    There are already lot of law to harass husband. Do not advocate to bring more ways false cases against husband.

    Husband suicide rate is more than double compared to wifes. Elderly parents and husband are always under threat of false dowry 498A case against them. This is used as tool to extract money even by good earning women.

    According to supreme court 498A is used as legal terrorism to settle scores and extort money.

    Please have some research done on such false harassment cases against MEN in India before trying to crucifying MEN further.

    Even Mens can be raped, but our society does not accepts it.

  2. citizenkane

    Marital rape is not legal in India.It is illegal under laws like 498a of Indian penal code, Domestic violence act 2005.Some people think Marital rape is legal in India because they have been brainwashed by feminist media.Its a new tred to spread lies and brainwash innocent women of India by some liberal feminists.They write the articles that marital rape is legal in India but they do not tell the whole story….they only talk about section 375 of Indian penal code which does not include marital rape…but they hide the fact that other laws like 498A . domestic violence exist to deal with marital rape…its a new trend…most people who think marital rape is legal in India use to think marital rape is illegal 2-3 years back..but now there is a trend of lies and misnformation started by some so many people think marital rape is legal in India….because they believe the misleading headlines of blogs, articles written by some feminist without doing their own research.

    1-Definition of Section 3 A of Protection of women from domestic violence 2005 which was passed to help victims of domestic violence in domesttic relationships and includes wife as well…it is mostly used by wife only–

    harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, SEXUAL ABUSE, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or

    Read the definition .It clearly mentioned the word sexual abuse .I mentioned it in capital letters .Sexual abuse include all forms of sexual abuse including rape or any form of sexual abuse.All rapes are sexual abuse but all sexual abuse are not rape.It includes all forms of sexual abuse including rape, molestation,or any other sexual abuse.

    Whole act can be seen by clicking on the following link-

    2-Definition of Section 498A of Indian penal code which was passed to help women who are victims of domestic violence or cruely and includes marital rape as well-

    Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty.—Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be pun­ished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.

    The word “CRUELTY” here in this law is very wide .It includes different forms of cruelty including marital rape which is obviosly a form of cruely.Unlike domestic villence act as defined earlier by me, section 498A of Indian penal code does not specifically mention the word sexual abuse/rape but it does include marital rape .

    In short, Marital rape in India is illegal.Do not get brainwashed by articles you have read recently with misleading headlines such as MARITAL RAPE IS LEGAL IN INDIA .I have also read them and so don’t give me links of those articles because these articles does not tell the whole story..they only talk about section 375 of India penal code and say section 375 of Indian penal code does not include marital rape so marital rape is legal in India if wife is above 15 and living with husband….its very ignorant thing to say ..because other laws which I have mentioned does include marital rape of all kinds…no matter whats the age of wife….or whether wife live with husband or not…all kinds of marital rape are included under laws I mentioned like 498A , Domestic violence act.. .Marital rape is not legal in India.

  3. sunni

    this article is totally wrong & biased

    the author of this article is a Man Hater aka Feminist.

    my previous comment was not at all published.

    Women are more sexual than Men & Rape men More or maintain extra-marital relations if they think
    they r not satisfied with the Man they married.

    World sex record for maximum number of orgasms in 1 Hour by a Women is -a shattering-134 !! &
    World sex record for maximum number of orgasms in 1 Hour by a Man is -only 16. which proves Women
    r Extremely Horny than Men.

  4. Monistaf

    Ms. Bhattacharya, you should do a little more research before publishing such articles. Marital rape is illegal in India. Please see page 60
    of the domestic violence act of 2005. It is NOT in section 375 because it does not carry the same sentence as statutory rape. How, since
    you are so hung up about Marital Rape, do you realize that “male rape” is also NOT covered under section 375, which would make it legal.
    Do you even care? Also a woman in India cannot be a perpetrator of sexual assault, only a victim. A male cannot be victim, only a perpetrator.
    Does that bother you at all? I am asking because you are so concerned about marital rape, even though it is illegal, I figured I might be able
    to elicit some compassion for male victims of sexual assaults as well. If you are a typical feminist, you will ignore and move on, if you truly
    believe in gender equality, you will be a little more sensitive to issues on the other side of the gender divide as well. I am not holding my breath though..

  5. Varun

    Author name suggests that she gonna spew venom not against the men only,bt all conservatives, family supporter,pro-lifer.and yes she gonna support like kainhhyya Creed.

  6. raj

    so you want a law…..wife says rape…husband goes to jail… simple

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