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Did you know that rape is legalized in India and 33 other countries? Yes, it is true. It is called marital rape. According to the definition given by law, Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code considers the forced sex in marriages as a crime only when the wife is below the age of 15. Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offence under the IPC. As a 19-year-old, it troubles me to think that a man can rape his wife and do so legally if they are married? And why is it that only 34 countries out of 194 countries find it difficult to make laws preventing this abuse? What did the other countries do to ensure that women are not subjected to “rape” by their own husbands? And why do we automatically assume that only a man can rape his wife and not vice-versa?
To be begin with, I would like to give a disclaimer. The contents of this article are for the people who can afford to open their minds and think about the situation at hand rather than shutting down this whole topic as too personal or a taboo or the infamous blame on “westernization”. And in the wake of a progressive outlook, I would try to make this article as inclusive as possible by adopting gender neutral terms. Women essentially were treated as “commodity” or “property” and the abuse on them were taken to be like that as well. Famous scriptures and holy books also preached the same lessons, and it is problematic no matter how much we try to cover them up in religious pretext of them being sacred. Hence, Rape as a concept could not exist in a marriage because “a man can do anything with his property right?” A good defense by the critics for this claim was that it was ancient time, people weren’t as educated as they are now. Our very famous and “superior” political dictators, the British were not at all silent about this issue. Some of the jurists very openly claimed that an institution of marriage is a legal contract between the husband and his wife by which the woman ‘gave herself’ to her husband for life. These views crystallized in the 18th and 19th century when the Indian Penal Code was drafted, and rape became a bodily harm or injury which could only be caused by people outside the family and that husbands and fathers were entrusted with the duty of saving their wives and daughters from the same. Around all this, nobody thought of looking what was going on inside the marriage.
Post-independence this matter never came up until a few years ago. This topic was highly criticized and mocked not only by the men but by the women as well. Lewd comments such as “should a person now sign a contract before indulging into sexual relations with their partners” or “cameras in bedrooms” etc. came up and disregarded this entire concept and made it look like its non-existent. While some really did not pay a heed about this issue, some were troubled with the idea of having to prove if the intercourse was consensual or not. Whenever this matter was taken to courts, they were dismissed by stating that it would destabilize the institution of marriage and it would become a tool for harassing husbands, keeping these concerns in mind, aren’t other laws being misused? And we did come up with a solution for that, then why being so hesitant about this? It has a lot to do with the kind of culture, religion, and upbringing we all are subjected to. Additionally, we have been conditioned to think that family would never hurt you and movies, social media and journalists portray these issues as something which would be done by the monstrous outsiders and not a family member. Sorry to break your bubble guys, but according to reports, over 80% of married woman are victims of sexual violence and report their current husbands as perpetrators. After reading all this, one might feel that we are targeting men, for your information, we are targeting the abuser and trying to erase this whole idea of rape being legalized just because it is inconsistent with the religious sentiments of the people even though it means subjugating the women to achieve it. Doesn’t the right to life and liberty guaranteed under the constitution give a person the basic rights such as right to dignity and respect?
It is interesting to note that all the countries where laws against marital rape are scoffed upon or ignored by some petty excuse, the rate of literacy is essentially less and apart from this, other basic rights which are guaranteed in other countries are not considered in these countries. A solution to this would be amendment of the laws and change in the social structure. Although there are various platforms to file a complaint about sexual violence, we need to sensitize both men and women and even children about the same. Poland was the first country to criminalize marital rape in 1932. In fact, most Scandinavian countries where the waves of feminist movements created an impact had their voices heard.
To conclude, it would be cumbersome to bring in laws against marital rape in a country whose culture encourages it, like the rape culture in Haryana where men think that after 15 years of age, its not rape, now we know where our lawmakers got the inspiration from in framing Section 375. The future seems bleak until and unless some concrete steps are taken by the law makers and enforcers. Marital rape is not only about the abuse against women and men but its also the idea of accepting abuse and propagating the same. May India open its eyes to these problems and hears the cries of women to whom justice is a distant dream.
References: – ( For Further Reading)
Sassy-Sonja Behind Closed Marital ebook