While we applaud Supreme court’s landmark judgement in case of Triple Talaq, it is disheartening to know that, in our country, something as heinous as Marital rape is brushed under the carpet. It isn’t even considered an offence. A rape is a rape irrespective of age, gender or marital status. Intercourse with consent is sex and without consent is Rape.
Last month, a 25 year old school teacher tried killing herself after she was brutally raped by her husband. In 2015, a woman was hospitalized due to severe injuries but her husband was not prosecuted because unfortunately the law does not consider Marital Rape an offence. These are just a few cases which hit the newspapers. Most of them do not even get reported. Does Marraige give a man permanent license to have sex with his wife, without her CONSENT? Should the wife always be willing to establish physical relationship on any day or time, just because he wants to? Among 106 countries, 32 consider Marital Rape as a Special Criminal Offence while the remaining include it in general Rape provision. There are only 36 countries where it is not even considered a crime and sadly, India is one among them .The mental agony and trauma that a woman faces after being Raped is Unbearable. Just imagine, she has to live with the rapist forever with NO Laws to protect her. Marital Rape is monstrous, humiliating and leaves an everlasting scar.
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code states an exception to the definition of Rape,”Intercourse or sexual act by a man with his wife (the wife not being under 15) is not rape”. This was recently modified as according to POSCO (Protection of children from sexual offences), the age of consent is 18. That means if a married woman is above 18 years of age and is raped by her husband, it won’t be considered a Rape. Does that mean laws are only meant to protect minors ? What if a woman above 18 is raped? The male is liable to be prosecuted for Rape even if two individuals below 18 have consensual sex, but if the wife is above 18 and the man forces himself on her without her consent, it’s NOT a crime according to the Law !
The Justice Verma Committee in 2013, suggested the removal of the exception under Section 375 and to make Marital Rape an offence regardless of wife’s age but the committee’s recommendation was not accepted. Though the law was modified and the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013 raised the age to 18 but Marital rape is still not considered a crime. According to National Family Health survey, 31% of women are subjected to emotional or sexual abuse by their spouse . Whenever we raise this issue, it is brushed aside by the government, as they feel criminalising marital rape will destabilise the institution of marriage. Why are we not ready to accept Marital Rape as a crime? Is it because we believe that it will destroy the sanctity of arranged marriages? Well, the so called sanctity is destroyed the moment the man forces himself on his wife. Marraige is based on trust and mutual respect. Neither the wife “belongs” to her husband, nor is she a “commodity” .
If you are wondering, when we have laws for domestic violence, then why is another needed for Marital Rape? Well, the Domestic Violence Act 2005 is inadequate for a crime as monstrous as Marital Rape. If someone rapes you, don’t you want him to be punished?Dont you want him to be held responsible for the trauma that you have undergone? Whether the abuser is one’s husband or a stranger makes no difference because the only thing that differentiates Sex from Rape is CONSENT.
I remember a few years back, one of my friend confided in me regarding feeling violated. Her husband used to violate her when she was asleep and she used to wake up feeling abused. Despite her refusal, he continued. Here the man is not a stranger. He is not thrashing her or holding a knife. Is this marital rape?Unfortunately, YES, it is, though it’s not what we think of normally as rape. Being married doesn’t change the fact that consent is crucial. If a woman is asleep or intoxicated, obviously she can’t give consent. Despite telling him innumerable times that she felt violated, he still continued because according to him, he wasn’t doing anything wrong as her body belonged to him. Well, a wife isn’t a commodity purchased by her husband, Her decision needs to be respected. There is a need to create awareness and educate men that CONSENT is CRUCIAL for sex.
Marital rape should be recognized as an offence and the punishment should be similar to that of rape. If you are wondering how can it be proved, Timely medical examination, forensic evidence and sexual abuse history can help. Just because a crime is difficult to prove, it cannot be brushed off. Moreover, the argument that law can be misused is absurd. We cannot NOT implement a law just because we are scared that some vengeful woman in future may falsely accuse her innocent husband someday. Laws do get misused but that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize a crime as a crime. Let’s have some checks and measures in place.
It’s high time we come forward and fight for our rights. Agree? Disagree? Have something to add? Drop in your comments.