Trigger Warning: Mentions of rape, marital rape
In recent news, Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde asked the rapist if he’d marry the victim on March 1, 2021. He was hearing the petition for protection from the arrest of a man accused of stalking, tying up, gagging, repeatedly raping a minor school going girl, and threatening to douse her in petrol and set her alight, to hurl acid at her, and to have her brother killed. Stating that the facts of the case are that the rape came to light when the minor school-going victim attempted suicide.
This has once again triggered the long-time debate over Marital rape in the week of International women’s day.
The question here is, why do such compromises happen?
Every day the newspaper is full of heinous Rape incidents. Although so much has been done for stricter rape laws, rape is considered terrible only because the dignity of women is always considered underneath the prevalent patriarchy thoughts of our society. Denying agency of consent to women; the trauma of their oppression and harassment and inhuman behaviour are not considered to be the basis for claiming rape. Instead, the insecurity of losing the dignity of women and their families in society makes it heinous.
In the case of marital rape, the honour of dignity is always put on the women shoulders. This is the reason why it is difficult to think of marital rape as a heinous crime in Indian society. The bond considered sacred by our society HAS to be maintained at any cost. The level of your dignity increases because women are more entangled in marital stereotypes and make their insults a very personal matter.
In a statement given by Haribhai Chaudhary, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, reasons for poverty, illiteracy and culture were given as excuses for not criminalising marital rape.
Are we saying that rape is our culture?
Is marriage in India a contract for legal sex, where a man doesn’t need to ask for permission and is free to impose himself on his wife?
The answers lie below in the patriarchal thoughts of people who never want to give women rights to say ‘NO’.
While most of the developed countries have penalised marital rape, India being one of the fastest developing nations doesn’t have a particular law for marital rape.
Marital rape is often referred to as cruelty and domestic violence under Section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code in which the convict will get a bonus of having less punishment if among clinical he is the husband of the victim and will be sentenced to imprisonment which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine.
The provision of rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) under Section 375 is also unfair for married women. It says, “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.” Punishment under this law also varies if the woman who has been raped is the wife of the rapist. The convict shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years with a fine or with both. The only condition is that the girl should not be under the age of 12.
According to data, between 10 to 14% of married women are raped by their husbands in incidents of marital rape. Sexual assault by one’s spouse accounts for approximately 25% of rapes committed in the United States*. The ground for considering rape should be non-consensual sex, harassment, injuries, pain a person has gone through not the dignity or so-called “izzat” that is a stereotype developed by society.
Only if the correct reasons for punishment against rape are understood, the immediate need for marital rape law will be understood. In a country where plenty of misconceptions are generated in the name of culture and religion, we should definitely have a law for consent even after marriage.