MARITAL RAPE AND PATRIARCHAL NOTIONS
“You should learn how to cook to please your husband.”
“You should know how to wear a saree.”
“You should know how to clean the house.”
“What will you do by studying so much? You anyway have to get married very soon.”
“Your husband is your god. Always listen to him and follow him.” These are the advises most Indian women out there have grown up listening to. It has been engraved in our minds that whatever our husbands do is right. It doesn’t matter even if it includes beating and abusing us emotionally, physically or sexually. Marital rape is
something which has been percolating through the roots of Indian marital relationships since time immemorial and till today the law
fails to recognize it. All of us have heard about domestic violence and dowry deaths but marital rape is a subject in India which hasn’t been spoken about much and still continues to be a public secret.
In simple terms, marital rape can be defined as non-consensual sex within marriage. It is nothing but a way to express ownership and
exhibit strength over wives by forcefully violating them physically and sexually. It is supposedly a wife’s duty to be submissive to her
husband and if she does not comply then the husband has the right to exert force over her body. Under section 375 of Indian Penal Code, marital rape has not been recognized as sexual assault unless the wife is below fifteen years of age. This is partially because of the orthodox, male chauvinistic mentality that it’s absolutely fine to treat a wife like one’s property and demand sex forcefully and partially because the
government has just started to operate vigorously in rape cases outside marriage that it doesn’t see marital rape as an immediate issue that needs to be dealt with. The other problem with the issue of marital rape is that it has not been given adequate media attention. We, as a nation, have recently woken up to the horrendous acts of sexual violence outside marriage and it will take us another century to comprehend the issue of marital rape because of the way patriarchal notions have permeated into our public and private spheres. Indian
women have always been taught to be submissive and not assertive. Only men have been given that liberty.
According to a report, 66% of Indian women are forced, raped or beaten to provide sex. The problem is not just about what men think of beating and raping women. The problem is also with women who still believe that it’s fine for them to get beaten by their husbands. In a country like India, the very fact that a man is married to a woman is enough to provide him with all the immunity he requires to use her
body as and when he pleases. Men are treating women like sexually passive objects and women are too afraid to speak up against this
behavior. Moreover, they hallucinate some positive sides to this bigoted attitude and believe that there is nothing wrong with such behavior because women are supposed to be subjugated and obedient to their husbands. What we require to do is to change ourselves first.
Let’s become more aware of our rights and our consciousness, and then stand up and fight for ourselves because if we don’t then nobody else
will. It took this nation almost a century to speak about sexual violence outside marriage; we can’t afford to wait for another century
for the law makers to take cognizance of our condition. We need to bring about that change in ourselves and take charge of our bodies
because “change does start at home”.
About the Author: This article is contributed by Rashmi Bagri, our intern.