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

“My Refusal Meant Nothing To Him”: A Survivor Opens Up About 10 Years Of Marital Rape

More from videovolunteers

52 countries have criminalised marital rape. But in India, lawmakers supposedly fear ‘destabilising’ the institution of marriage. It’s not fear; it’s misogyny.

“Yes, he is my husband but does that mean he can rape me?”

The argument against marital rape is as simple as that. It does not matter whether the perpetrator is a complete stranger or your husband of many years; forcing an individual to engage in a sexual act amounts to rape.

When Rita (name changed), a survivor of marital rape and domestic violence, approached the local police station, she was told that since he is her husband, she must submit to his demands. This was when she raised the crucial point that whether or not the man is her husband, he has no right to rape her, a point that seems to escape our society and government at large.

The police eventually arrested her husband, although the charge sheet only mentioned domestic violence and not rape. But their attitude, along with the attitude of her parents and her community depicts how women are still treated as someone’s property and are expected to be subservient.

“My refusal meant nothing to him,” said Rita when Community Correspondent Reena Ramteke, asked her how she tried to oppose her husband. Rita added that her husband would beat her up and threaten to kill her. He would try not to let the children sleep in the same room as them, but when Rita insisted that they would, he would rape her in their presence.

“Faced by such violent threats, how could I scream?” asks Rita. Her husband’s threats aside, one wonders if many would have come to her aid had she screamed for help. The police initially said that they did not want to get involved in a marital dispute and subsequently filed only a domestic violence case. And her parents, who she thought would support her, said that her problems were not their business anymore.

Instead of coming to a survivor’s aid, institutions like the family and the state can only make matters worse. Fortunately, her in-laws stayed by her side and helped her file a report, even encouraging her to live separately and letting her stay with them as the violence grew. Rita’s husband is now in jail.

It was not only the stigma against domestic violence and sexual abuse that made it difficult for Rita to file a case but the fact that there is no law that criminalises marital rape. The belief that marriage is a sacrament and that the institution of the family should be protected runs deep right from the local police in Rita’s case up to the Union Ministers, and within most homes.

International agreements like the CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) and national level committees like the landmark Justice JS Verma Committee, have both recommended removing the marital rape exception from IPC 375, the section of the Indian Penal Code that defines rape. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, who first infamously said that marital rape is a concept that does not apply to India, also later suggested that the government was mulling criminalising the offence. Consequently, the matter was left up to the Law Commission.

The issue hit the courts again in cases of marital rape against minor survivors, not below 15 years of age and also when groups of activists petitioned against it again. In the former, the courts ruled that marital rape of a minor below 18 years would also be considered a criminal offence because it would be considered rape under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012.

Petitioners have also sought the same safeguard for adult married women. Although the petition challenging the exception to IPC 375  is still being heard in the Delhi High Court, senior Supreme Court judges like Justice Chandrachud have also argued that the right to say ‘no’ should be a right after marriage too. In another case, the Gujarat High Court gave relief to a man accused of marital rape on the grounds that there was no law to book him under but made it clear that the offence is an injustice and must be criminalised.

Interestingly, a counter-petition challenging the aforementioned PIL in the Delhi High Court also surfaced earlier this year. The petition, filed by a ‘Men’s Rights Group’, argued that marital rape should not be an offence because there are already enough laws protecting women from sexual abuse and that criminalising it would only harass men further. The court eventually struck down the PIL, hopefully setting a precedent in favour of criminalising the offence. The government, however, has not shown an active interest in doing so.

That married women are already protected by several laws, especially the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence (DV) Act of 2005, is the most common argument against the criminalisation of marital rape. Although the DV Act mentions sexual violence, it is a civil law and not a criminal law. It is precisely what happened in Rita’s case; the police filed a case of domestic violence, and her husband is now in jail. But the problem lies in the failure to recognise that non-consensual sex perpetrated by a husband is also rape and that a woman has absolute autonomy over her body and her life, whether she is married or not.

Video by Community Correspondent Reena Ramteke

Article by Alankrita Anand, a member of the VV Editorial Team

You must be to comment.

More from videovolunteers

Similar Posts

By Rashna Jehani

By Niharika Gupta

By IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute

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