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Marital Rape is not a Rape?

Rape is a topic that makes many people of all ages uncomfortable. Few people think of themselves as potential rape victims, and even fewer consider themselves capable of the rape of another. The natural reluctance to talk about the issue and the widespread existence of mistaken ideas about rape have resulted in a great deal of secrecy, silence, and shame surrounding the subject. Lack of understanding, awareness, and open communication about rape only adds to the suffering of victims.

Minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi made a strange remark that marital rape cannot be legalised in Indian context. Her written statement , “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc.” She added further, “Marital rape cannot be criminalized in India.” She differs from her last statement in June, last year, when she said,” Marital Rape unacceptable.” Earlier she condemned it saying in an interview to journalists, “My opinion is that violence against women shouldn’t be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness.” Perhaps she is not doing her homework properly or she is under political compulsion. Rape is a rape and it is the most horrific and abhorrent things in the world. Categorizing it under any name is like playing cards.

Marital rape is illegal in 18 American States, 3 Australian States, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Rape in any form is an act of utter humiliation, degradation and violation rather than an old concept of penetration.Nation pregnant with misconceptions of rape, deeply ingrained cultural and religious stereotypes, and changing social values, globalization has to fast alter the letter of law. Problem is that marriage is sacred and is accepted sacrosanct. It is very much disgusting to cohabit with a person within a family and worshiping all whims of him forcefully to fulfil his carnal desires.

Marriage does not thrive on sex and the fear of frivolous litigation should not stop protection from being offered to those caught in abusive traps, where they are denigrated to the status of chattel. Apart from judicial awakening; we primarily require generation of awareness. Men are the perpetrators of this crime. ‘Educating boys and men to view women as valuable partners in life, in the development of society and the attainment of peace are just as important as taking legal steps protect women’s human rights’, says the UN. Men have the social, economic, moral, political, religious and social responsibility to combat all forms of gender discrimination.

Organizations working for victims of sexual violence were quick to point out that the new law has serious omissions: Most prominently, it does not criminalize marital rape. A woman raped by her husband continues to have no recourse under Indian law. Approximations have quoted that every 6 hours; a young married woman is burnt or beaten to death, or driven to suicide from emotional abuse by her husband. The UN Population Fund states that more than 2/3rds of married women in India, aged between 15 to 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. In 2005, 6787 cases were recorded of women murdered by their husbands or their husbands’ families. 56% of Indian women believed occasional wife-beating to be justified. The marital rape exemption can be traced to statements by Sir Mathew Hale, Chief Justice in England, during the 1600s. He wrote, “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband, whom she cannot retract.”

Section 375, the provision of rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), echoes very archaic sentiments, mentioned as its exception clause- “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.” Is marital rape a myth? Can we come out of this misconception and confusion? Marital rape is a form of sexual offence and a form of violence against women in any form. It constitutes a violation of women’s human rights such as the right to equal protection of the law, liberty and security of the person and freedom from discrimination. Sex becomes the weapon, the vehicle to accomplish the desired result, which is to overwhelm, overpower, embarrass, and humiliate another person. All non-consensual sex is rape, whether it takes place within a marriage or any other relationship. Further, Marriage doesn’t mean recovered permission to sexual advancements. Let us not use the notions of privacy and sanctity of marriage to condone or ignore sexual violence. It is a deep topic and it needs debate. It has been seen some wives withhold sex from their husbands and their sexual drive or libido is so low that they can seldom make love to their husbands. However, these reasons do not constitute a license for husbands to rape their wives. Men, who generally rape wives, seen having multiple sexual partners. Rape is not sex but it is just power and control. When their wives say no, it hurts their ego and in order to show their authority and supremacy, they force their wives. Bedroom darkened and not turned into romantic candlelight but with torture, agony and affliction of self-gratification, intimidation, and coercion.

It’s my personal opinion that society will pay a huge price for neglecting their children. As per the citation from the Mahabharata, dharma eva hato hanti dharmo raksati raksitah (It is dharma that destroys when destroyed. It is dharma again that protects when protected.)

(Author is a Lawyer and a freelance writer )

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