Marital Rape is an unquestionable reality in India. The National Health Family Survey in 2005-06 published a report that explicitly mentioned figures of sexual violence, faced by married women from their husbands. More than 60,000 women were surveyed, a mean average of 10.4% of married women across different age groups, confided about sexual violence/harassment inflicted by their husbands. Rural women faced more violence (11.2%) than urban women (7.3%).
Such incidents occur every day. The patriarchal notion continues to occupy the mindset of our society, even after six decades of us being a republic nation. It’s a pity, the emancipation of women hasn’t yet been completely achieved in independent India.
Women in this country have remained subjugated and will continue to be – until, the parliament recognises marital rape as a pertinent social issue and makes strict laws or amendments under existing laws to deal with it. It’s evident that rape laws in India consider non consensual sexual engagement before marriage as rape, but stays redundant for the same crime, post marriage. Married women are considered to be the property of men with no autonomy over their bodies. It is ironic that if a man marries a woman and then rapes her, it’s legally acceptable. Such loopholes in our legal system should be corrected, as atrocities against women are simply unjustifiable.
The Supreme Court on Oct. 11, 2017, in its landmark verdict, increased the age of consent from 15 to 18 in Exception (II) of Sec. 375, IPC. It however reserved its comments on the issue of adult marital rape. In 2013, the Justice ‘JS Verma’ committee in its report had recommended that, exception (ii) in Sec. 375 should be completely removed.
Around the world, 32 countries have made specific laws for marital rape; whereas, 74 countries have included it in the general rape provisions. The United Nations has time and again suggested the Indian govt. to criminalise such offences. Recently, the UNDP chief Helen Clarke in an interview to The Hindu denounced the central govt.’s unwillingness to act firmly on this issue. She said that India would be a defaulter in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs) if it doesn’t change its stance.
India can learn something from its neighbours. Nepal has laws against marital rape, so does Bhutan
— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) August 29, 2017
That being said – arguments against criminalising marital rape, point out to certain existing laws viz. Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Sec. 498A, IPC – that could be used as an alternative to prosecuting the guilty. RIT Foundation and All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) are the lead petitioners in the Delhi High Court; which is currently hearing their appeal to strike down the Exception (II) of Sec. 375, IPC. The petitioners have logically argued and criticised the provisions of the aforementioned laws, by precisely questioning the magnitude of penalty faced by the offenders.
Other arguments talk about the presence (or lack) of effective forensic evidence to testify rape. For that, the report of African Population and Health Research Centre and other medical institutions can be considered, which specifies the health impacts faced by women – due to regular sexual abuse, i.e. HIV, vaginal bleeding, genital irritation, chronic pelvic pain, pain during sex and complications during pregnancy. Ostensibly, a timely medical examination can differentiate between consensual sex and forced sex. Also, admission of the husband in electronic communication could also be used as evidence to prove his guilt.
Rape is not quantifiable. It can’t be measured by calling it a ‘severe rape’ or ‘minor rape’/ ‘good rape’ or ‘bad rape’. Rape is rape. Wedlock can’t be used as an excuse by husbands to have forceful sex. The mental trauma of rape victims in marriage or outside marriage shouldn’t be described in legal terminologies. It’s often observed — that women believe, men have all right to force themselves upon them, and choose to ignore such mistreatment.
While the govt. made a law to criminalise Triple Talaq for upholding the dignity of Muslim women, it conveniently ignored the necessity of having a discussion on marital rape in the parliament. Nevertheless, the biggest challenge lies in changing the patriarchal mindset of the individuals, including women. It has to be understood, that law alone can’t bring about a revolution; it’s us, who have to understand our moral responsibility and cure this social evil.