Marital Rape! Law and the loopholes!

Marital Rape! Law and the loopholes!

In a country where a gang rape can evoke strong emotions among the masses, leading to candle marches in pursuit of justice, why does spousal rape cannot draw attention? Marriage is not a license for the husband to have sex with his wife without her consent. The crude view that still prevails in our society—subjecting women as the weaker sex and stereotyping them as docile homemakers—needs to be done away with. “In the present day, studies indicate that between 10 and 14% of married women are raped by their husbands: the incidents of marital rape soar to 1/3rd to ½ among clinical samples of battered women”. Despite marital rape being declared as an offence in many countries, India stubbornly refuses to embrace the change by claiming to remain conventional and by not subjecting married women to the rape laws in India. The stark reality of a woman losing her liberty, decision-making ability and individuality cannot be denied.

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code excludes sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, if the wife is above 15 years of age, from the definition of rape. This ironically makes it legitimate for a man to rape his own wife. If marriage is really a ‘sacred institution’ as believed by cultural pioneers in India, how does sexual superiority of the man find its place in such an institution? A small relief came in the form of the 172nd Law Commission Report. The Law Commission recommended that “forced sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife should be treated equally as an offence just as any physical violence by a husband”.

This relief however failed to materialize in the form of legislation. Even the much-anticipated Domestic Violence Law passed in the year 2005 took a disappointing turn when it condoned sexual abuse in a domestic relationship of marriage or a live-in, if it is not “life threatening or grievously hurtful”. It had nothing to do with forced sexual encounters. This being the legal scenario, a social change advocating the liberty of women even after marriage is imperative. There is no sense in protecting women before marriage, if they are knowingly pushed into a world of unfathomable atrocities after their marriage. But even before a legal change, what is required is a change in the conventional mindset of the people, which always subdues women.

About the author: The article has been contributed by our intern, Apurva Prabhakar.

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