Marital Rape

A form of Domestic Violence

The bookish definition of rape as per Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that any/all form of sexual conduct that involves assault, molestation, and non-consensual sexual act with a woman is a crime. However, there still exists an abnormality in the IPC Section 375. According to Exception 2 to Section 375, a man is exempted from prosecution if he has unwilling sexual act with their wife over fifteen years of age. In simple terms, men are immunized from being branded as criminals/rapists even if their wife does not consent to the sexual activity. While almost every country today recognizes unwilling sexual act between a husband and a wife a crime, India is one of the thirty-six countries that has still not protected women’s rights after marriage and criminalized marital rape. The harsh truth of India is that around 31 percent of married women have experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence at the hands of their spouses. Presently, marital rape in India is at an all-time high as there is no provision for women to report it legally and get judicial help from the government.

Marital Rape - Another Form of Domestic Violence?

By definition, domestic violence includes rape, sexual assault, mental or physical molestation, cruelty by partners or relatives, human trafficking, dowry-related incidents, and other crimes listed under various IPC sections. While domestic violence can be against both genders, it is majorly conducted against women due to poor/weak prosecution strategies against the perpetrators. Marital rape is one such non-criminalized crime in India.

But why such ignorance toward women's safety in their own homes? The answer lies deep within the patriarchal nature of India, where women are seen as child-bearing machines and men are the ‘boss’ of the household. While the time and year have changed, the deep-rooted conventional thoughts of Indians have remained stagnant over the years. Throughout history, women in India have been considered the property of their father and after marriage, their husband. Not giving them a voice and excluding them basic right to speak up against heinous crimes within the four walls of her home, only widens the gap in gender inequality, which many people are fighting hard to fill.

Statements that were given by Government and lawmakers to Justify Marital Rape

The most popular argument that has been put forth by the law makers of the nation is that criminalizing court cannot interfere in ‘personal matters’ of people and it would destabilize marriages, making men vulnerable to harassment by their wives. The regressive Indian mentality is further highlighted in the statement that what may seem rape to the wife may not be considered as rape by others. But isn’t consent only given by the person involved in the act, not by others?

Why Criminalize Marital Rape?

In straightforward words, because it is the violation of women’s fundamental rights; allowing spousal rape without branding it as a crime effectively translates to violating human dignity and valuing women lesser in terms of human beings after she is married. It is a baseless and illogical argument that the unwilling sexual act between husband and wife cannot be criminalized to protect the stability of the institution of marriage in India. A marriage is only sacred and stable when two partners are given equal rights over their bodies without one partner violating other partner’s wishes in any way.

At last, it is recommended that women raise their voice against any forceful action against them. Various institutes and organizations are running solely for women's welfare and their re-establishment after any crime.