A quick turn around a corner
and my planet becomes sand
on the shore of a dying Universe.
A life of subordination, violence, abuse, taunts, labor, and submission: Such is thy life, O woman!
“The consequence of living in a patriarchal society is that we are surrounded by an ambiance of male dominating conventions and customs, which brings with itself uncounted atrocities and agonies against women. One of the major atrocities against women is marital rape.”
Marriage is considered the most sacred union of two souls. But one of the gravest crimes takes place in the cover of this sacred union, i.e. Marital Rape; it is basically non-consensual sexual intercourse with the wife. Bertrand Russell in his book has said that Marriage is the commonest source of livelihood for the woman and the demand for sex in this institution is even larger than prostitution.
In India, only Rape is a crime and Marital Rape is an exemption. Section 375 defines rape, it makes an exemption (Exception II) where the husband is the perpetrator saying that “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”
Even the judiciary has accepted that making marital rape; a crime will damage the pillars of marriage. One of the most important case law in this regard is “Sree Kumar vs. Pearly Kar, the wife was subjected to sexual intercourse without her will by her husband when she went to live together with her husband for 2 days as an outcome of the settlement of divorce proceedings which was going on between the two parties.
Hence the husband was held not guilty of raping his wife, though he had done so.” In spite of criminalizing marital rape as an offense, they think of sex as essential to marriage. In cases like Shakuntla Kumari v Om Prakash Ghai, “It was held that a normal and healthy sexual relationship is one of the basic ingredients of a happy and harmonious marriage.
Also in a 2012 judgment Shashi Bala v Rajiv Arora it was held that indisputably, there has to be a healthy sexual relationship between a normal” couple. In a recent case RIT Foundation v Union of India, which is yet to be decided, Petitioners strongly argued that the exception is given to Section 375 of IPC (Rape) Rape claims that the exemption is unfair because it discriminates against married and single women. It also fails to recognize the fact that the exception frees the man who wants to force himself on his partner.
But isn’t marital rape a graver offense than rape?
Should not it be criminalized?
Rape shakes the dignity of a woman and what if, this happens in the four corners of marriage, it merely breaks down the trust of women. Even if she tries to raise her voice against this crime, she is taught that she somehow has to adjust to these atrocities and not only our society, even the constitution says that women have to adjust to this atrocity as the rape is committed by the man she knows and that is not a big deal. Our constitution must recognize that RAPE IS RAPE, even if committed by the husband.
The problem does not lie with the women, the problem does not lie with the men, the problem lies with the patriarchy, the society always teaches the woman to adjust, and also she is considered as the property of the husband and he can use it as per his wish. The argument which is given to defend the criminalization of Marital Rape is that marriage is a sacred institution and it should be protected from all these damages, but the question is what is the use of protecting an institution where women die daily and that also by the hands of the person whom she trusted with blind eyes and had given her heart and soul to him.
Not only this, if legally seen this exception of marital rape violates the human rights of a woman. It also violates Article 14, right to equality, as it distinguishes between married women and unmarried women. It violates Article 15 as it discriminates on the basis of an intelligible basis. It violates Article 21 as it takes the right to personal liberty of a woman.
Being a developing country and having a huge rise of scholars in the field of the law, no one thinks that marital rape is an issue that is to be discussed. And if someone tries to discuss it, the lessons of marriage are given to him.
The Indian penal code states that a husband will go to jail if his wife rejects sex, but a wife cannot, and there are no rules in place to discipline a man who degrades a woman or a man who violates someone’s trust. There is an urgent need to enact legislation to protect women, and it is beyond time to address the crimes committed against women. Women should not be exposed to the parties’ coercion or harassment.
This is high time to bring in-laws for the protection of women because women are a core of the society’s formation and if they are not safe in their own house, then it is a big stigma on the whole society. Also, it is needed to be understood by everyone that women never lose the right to say “NO” not even after marriage. Marriage can’t be used as a license to rape somebody, sexual intercourse without consent should be criminalized even if the perpetrator is the husband.
A Student pursuing Legum Baccalaureus from Lucknow University, Lucknow