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By Disregarding Marital Rape, “Are We Trying To Say Rape Is Our Culture?”

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By Nikita Bishnoi:

Even though so much has been done for stricter rape laws, rape is considered appalling only because the dignity of women is thought to have been undermined and she is ‘slut shamed’ for no fault of her own. Women’s ‘denial of consent’, pain and trauma of harassment do not form the basis to claim rape to be inhuman by the society. Rather, the insecurity of losing the dignity of the women and that of their families is what makes society push the limits to avoid it.

In the case of rape inside a marriage, dignity of marriage is privileged over the dignity of women. This is the reason why it is hard to consider marital rape a heinous crime in our society. A bond considered to be sacred by our society is to be maintained at any cost. The level of its dignity ascends as women indulge more and more in marital stereotypes and keep their humiliation to be an extremely private affair.

maneka gandhi
Maneka Gandhi

In a statement given by Maneka Gandhi, reasons like poverty, illiteracy and culture were given as excuses for not criminalising marital rape. A rapist is a sociopath. Should a sociopath be defended on the grounds of poverty, illiteracy or culture? Are we trying to say rape is our culture? The mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament should be all the more reason to criminalise marital rape since the defaulter needs to be punished.

Domestic Violence Or Marital Rape?

Marital rape is often referred under domestic violence. Forcible intercourse or penetration by force or threat of force is not just an act of ‘violence’ but ‘rape’. Being a husband of the victim should not be an excuse to decrease the punishment of a rapist to imprisonment for one year and Rs. 20,000/- fine under section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code.

Is Divorce An Exit?

A divorce can be filed on the grounds of domestic violence which includes “Insisting on perverse sexual conduct”, which clearly undermines the seriousness of the crime. Moreover, only excessive and unreasonable demands for sex or demands for unnatural sex have been considered forms of cruelty and may entitle a woman to a divorce. Since India does not have a law on marital rape, even if a woman’s husband has sexual intercourse with her without her consent, he cannot be prosecuted for rape.

Divorce is not only a rescue path for the victim but, it is also a rescue for the culprit. As many would argue, “If the shoe pinches, discard it.” To them, it is to be made clear that the trauma of rape is incomparable to the pain of a pinching shoe.

Prevailing Misuse Of Anti-Dowry Law And Other Arguments

There are arguments for the misuse of the marital rape law. It is argued whether it should come into being given the prevailing the misuse of the anti-dowry law. Every law in India has the potential to be misused. But this does not mean that the law should be done away with! Instead, clauses should be added in the law which protect the rights of men and punishment for the women who file false cases. An amendment of such a kind in the law should be considered.

Dowry law being misused does not mean women are no more the victims of murder or driven to suicide by continuous harassment and torture by husbands and in-laws in an effort to extort dowry. In fact, true cases come up all the time and men are held guilty in the court after legitimate legal proceedings. We still have women who face ‘dowry deaths’, domestic violence and of course, marital rape which can still not be reported as a ‘rape’!

Many also argue that women not letting their husbands have sex with them entitles their husbands to use force which may or may not take a form of rape. What kind of society do we live in where a woman’s denial is not accepted? Does she not have a right to her own body? There is a legitimate way of moving out of an unsatisfactory relationship – by filing for a ‘divorce’! Sexual humiliation and torture by force is inhuman, cruel and certainly not a solution.

On A Final Note…

The grounds for considering rape a crime should be sex against consent, injuries, pain, trauma and harassment a person has to go through. Diminished dignity or ‘izzat’ as we call it is just a stereotype the society has thrust upon the survivor in order to prove that ‘it’s her fault’ for bringing such misfortune upon herself. Only if the correct reasons for punishment against rape are understood, the immediate need of marital rape law can be understood. The misconceptions regarding marital rape should be discussed and debated so as to ensure a safer household for married women.

Also read: When Rape Is Too “Personal” For Law- The Paradox Of Rape Laws In India.

You must be to comment.
  1. Monistaf

    How do you prove “marital rape”? In the vast majority of cases, it is his word against hers. There is a lot of potential for misuse and abuse just like the infamous 498A that you mention. Yes, ALL laws have the potential to be misused, but Ms. Bishnoi, the vast majority of the cases prosecuted under 498A do not end in a conviction. It is simply appalling how women have learned to take advantage a law meant to protect them and harass their husbands and in-laws.
    This is simple to do because 498A essentially strips all married men of their universal human rights of presumption of innocence and due process in a court of law. You CANNOT fight for justice for one group of people at the cost of injustice to another. A married man in India can be arrested without any probable cause or evidence, just merely based on a statement from his wife. Can you imagine what would happen if you strip women of the same rights?
    Considering marital rape, it is already against the law (Covered by the 2005 domestic violence act) like you mention. Why should we protect only women from domestic abuse? Why not make the law gender neutral? There are plenty of men who are emotionally, physically, financially and verbally abused by their wives? Where do they go to address their grievances? How can they reconcile and find closure? Do you even care? Please do not tell me that men are not
    abused in a relationship, based on evidence from other countries, it is nearly 43% and that is only counting physical abuse. A lot of them are not reported, but in India, it cannot be reported because it is not against the law for the wife to abuse her husband because, you see, men cannot simply be a victims of domestic violence. Are you also aware Ms. Bishnoi, that section 375 does not allow men to be victims of rape, it does not allow women to be perpetrators of sexual
    assault!! Do you think men get raped? Do you also think that they are human and could possibly suffer the same levels of emotional trauma as women who are raped? Does anyone care? What is the problem with making the rape law gender neutral? The feminists in India strongly oppose making it gender neutral for fear of men abusing the law. But, according to your statement, just because the law can be abused, does not mean we should not pass it? If you include
    prison rape in the USA, three times as many men are raped as the number of women, so I can guarantee you that it happens. We never hear about it in India, simply because it is “legal” to rape a man. Now you are worried about rape within a marriage not being taken seriously, even though there is enough provision to address it in the DV act of 2005. I am all for it, as long as you make it gender neutral, and give both men and women equal opportunity to abuse it at will.

  2. madhu

    Its a shame that we still don’t have a law against marital rape.
    well concluded nikita, rape is a horror not loss of honour.
    its disgusting how people comfortably bring culture and society in to personal bedrooms
    it should be about rights of an individual against violation of her body.

  3. Nikita Bishnoi

    @Monistaf yes i have said that every law can be misused but i have also mentioned that clauses should be added for men to protect their rights and “punishment for women who file false complaint”. I have clearly mentioned that. Secondly, you said that in many cases under 498-A conviction does not happen. Yes, but in the remaining some cases(according to you), if the article 498-A was not there, can the victim have justice? And the culprit be punished? The flaw is with the law certainly, which should be amended. But, had the law not been there, the cases in which the conviction did happen, the victims would not have got justice. N yes, last but not the least the cases even get “unreported” in case of women and man both. Women also do not complain because often non working women have nowhere to go accept their husbands… Tjis society is built that way. So you can certainly not trust upon the statistics of complaints and convictions in tjis case. Thaks for commenting. 🙂

  4. ravi

    Well written, precised, to the point with apt hold of the subject. Good Job !!

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