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

Why India Needs To Criminalise Marital Rape

More from Vandita Morarka

You hear advertisements, movies and people screaming to the world that rape is rape, even within a marriage. But does our law hear this? No.

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code reinstates the legality of marital rape in India by listing marital rape as an exception to the crime of rape, stating that, sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.

Our law creates a legal fiction and assumes consent of the partner in a marital relationship, even when none is given. It literally says that even if one is raped by their partner within a marriage, the law is going to ignore such sexual violence because it deems it impossible.

In a very recent case, Independent Thought v. Union of India, the central government told the Supreme Court bench, of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta, that it does not consider marital rape a crime. The case had sought to amend the law stating the discrepancy in the age of the wife as given under the exception with the actual age of majority in India, which is 18 years of age. What is even more disturbing is that all arguments against criminalisation fall back against notions of tradition and our cultural values as against the violation of fundamental rights of individuals.

They seem to be saying that treating one’s wife as one would treat property, to do with as one wishes, is part of our Indian culture. Is that what our culture is meant to represent? I don’t know if that offends you, but it makes me boil with rage.

Yes, all violence within a marriage must be addressed. Yes, one cannot demarcate which kind of violence is more severe or which kind of violence deserves primary attention – because all violence does. The impact of each kind of violence differs with each survivor, and we need to increasingly address individual cases.

At the same time, asking for the criminalisation of marital rape is not separating it from other violence that occurs within a marriage, it is understanding and accepting that sexual violence is also a kind of violence that can occur within a marriage. It is creating a legal possibility of acknowledgement of such violence. It is equipping one with a right against such violence.

Section 498A does provide for protection against cruelty, and we must ensure that it is upheld and strengthened, but it isn’t adequate to have that alone. How does one account for conflict of law if we aim to address marital rape under other legal provisions while the Indian Penal Code continues to consider it an explicit exception to rape? We need to avoid this conflict of law to reduce the judicial process involved in again determining the legal questions surrounding the criminality of marital rape. It is imperative that not only is the exception of marital rape to the act of rape removed from the Indian Penal Code but that marital rape is recognised as an aggravated form of rape.

It is true that marital rape does not occur in isolation of other violence, but having such laws to represent it strengthens the rights of the partner against whom the violence is being perpetrated. Such a law does not imply that marital rape is the only crime within a marriage that is worthy of stringent punishment, it in fact only implies that marital rape is also a crime that is punishable. That forced sex within marriage is not okay. That there is no duty-bound obligation between partners to have sex if they do not want to.

What having such a law also does is that it creates awareness and generates conversations. Law is never the only solution – it needs to be supported by comprehensive training for individuals and increased sensitization. But isn’t that true for almost every law? So why is it that most always focus on the education bit to be a primary means of intervention about sexual violence laws? Building both up collaboratively is of need.

In India, 94% of rapes are reportedly committed by someone the victim knows, and women are 40 times more likely to be assaulted by their husbands than by strangers. While the law alone can’t change that, it can serve as a starting point in the fight to reduce sexual violence within and outside of marital relationships.

Red Elephant Foundation has been running a petition on to build citizen support for criminalising marital rape; you can support the petition here. Alongside, it has also developed a website where one can access educational tools around the issue of marital rape.

You must be to comment.

More from Vandita Morarka

Similar Posts

By Rachana Priyadarshini

By swonshutaa dash

By Hariaksh Kamal

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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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