Updated: Apr 15
“Her friends used to tell her it was not raped if the man was your husband. She didn’t say anything, but inside she seethed; she wanted to take a knife to their faces.” From the early civilizations’ women were treated as chattels or occupied inferior positions in our society. There are so many socio-political factors behind this. So many numbers of Offenses are prevailing in society against the women like sexual abuse, Stalking, Dowry-death, Domestic Violence, Acid throwing, Rape, and so on. Today, all crimes acquire great importance in discussions, debates, legislations and are seeking the attention of the peoples. But among all of, not much importance is given to the act of Marital Rape. The term ‘Marital Rape’ refers to the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the Spouse. It is not necessary that must be an absence of consent, the consent obtained by force or misrepresentation also amounts to Marital Rape. Hence the missing element in marital rape is the free consent of the Spouse. Marital Rape is also known as ‘Spouse Rape’. Though marital rape is the most common and repugnant form of masochism in Indian society it is hidden behind the iron curtain of marriage. In India, marital rape is not a crime, even it is adjourned by the so-called representatives of the society by impersonating its husband’s rights. And Laws that permit marital rape treats women as the property of their husbands. A patriarchal framework that administers Indian families has constantly considered ladies as unimportant property of their significant or other guardians. This belief system has also impacted our legislatures in disregarding the offense of spouse and by this, they are noiselessly tolerating that ladies are the only source of sexual satisfaction of her better half with no will of her own over her sexuality.
The asterisked exception features in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code that defines rape as a criminal offense. A man commits rape if he has sexual intercourse with a woman against or without her consent, or if she is a minor (The legal age of valid consent is 18 in India). However, Exception 2 to Section 375 exempts unwilling sexual intercourse with a wife over fifteen years of age from this definition of rape, thus making it legal for men to rape women- who happen to be their wives- aged 15 and above. This exemption is also an infringement of the fundamental right of equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution to married women. Marital rape is a huge problem in India. 1 in 3 men admit to raping their wives, and 1 Indian woman is raped by her husband every 3 seconds. In 2005, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 was passed which considers marital rape as a type of local violence. Rape is not merely an offense under the Indian Penal Code, but it is a crime against society as a whole. Rape is a lesser degree a sexual offense than a demonstration of hostility gone for corrupting and mortifying the women. Therefore, marital rape is violative of a spouse’s right to live with human dignity under Article 21. Any law which damages women’s right to live with dignity and gives the spouse appropriate to drive the wife to have sexual intercourse without her will is along these lines unlawful. It’s 2020 and India remains one of the 36 countries where it is not a crime for a man to rape a woman – as long as they are married. So, what’s holding India, a burgeoning ‘superpower’, back? A careful analysis points to several factors: a rigidly patriarchal society, across India’s myriad religions, that suppresses women voices and agency; and, a culture where marriage and family, in the dated sense of the words, still hold utmost significance as the building blocks. It is a crying shame that even so many years marital rape has not been criminalized in this country. Every woman has the right to sexual privacy, equality, to live with dignity, and to maintain her modesty. Marital rape in India is not a crime but surely it needs to be.
- LEGAL HUMMING
(CO-AUTHOR MANISHA SINGH)