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We’ve been talking about marital rape for quite a while now without reaching an effective conclusion and it's time things changed.
Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s speech, on the occasion of Independence Day, mentioned his vision for a ‘New India’, one that has empowered women. However, his cabinet decided to contradict this speech by defending the clause in Indian Penal Code that allows a man to rape his wife if she is 15 years of age and older. This defense was based on the fact that criminalizing marital rape would effectively 'destroy the institution of marriage'!
Here’s a video that talks about how commonplace marital rape in India is. While this video shocked us, it did hit close to home.
The Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code clearly states that ‘Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.’ Shocking, right?
Even though at the time of amending the 150-year-old rape law in 2013, The Justice JS Verma Committee suggested the removal of the exception of marital rape from the law because the relationship between the victim and the accused did not matter when it came to consent, the Parliament happily decided to ignore this particular suggestion!
The first base we need to cover is to clarify and answer, ‘what exactly is consent?’ We know it can be a tricky concept for most of us to understand because there are a lot of gray areas but the basic premise remains the same - unless it’s explicitly stated, it’s not a yes! So what about no response? Well, in that case, not saying no is not equal to saying yes.
In case, anybody in your life does not understand what consent is, here is an amazing video to help them understand!
Criminalizing marital rape, in no possible way whatsoever, affects the sanctity of marriage. On the contrary, marital rape in itself is what destroys the institution of marriage, which is supposed to be an equal partnership between two human beings. Sexual violence can be used as an effective technique to control the free will of the wife by the husband - a gross and blatant violation of the fundamental right to freedom. Marital rape violates not one, but two fundamental rights, the second being right to life which gives a woman the right over her own body and her integrity.
We understand the concern, that a few women may misuse this law for their own personal vendetta but this is not a valid reason to sentence 50% of the human population to a life of fear because of a handful of stray ones. Also, while this debate is women-centric, because of the sheer number of crimes against women, we advocate protecting men from the same as well because, the hard reality is, men are rape victims too!
Not just this, it is also a case of discrimination against women on the basis on their marital status because unmarried women may file a rape case against their partner but a married woman cannot. Isn’t that something the Constitution of India has done away with? Discrimination on any possible basis?
For a land that worships goddesses, we’re clearly doing our women a disservice by not even accepting that they have any right over their own bodies after marriage. At the time of marriage, you commit to a life with a person you love and place your full and unwavering faith in him to be with you, for better or for worse. There can be no greater transgression than that man himself breaking your trust.
Until and unless we recognize marital rape as an offense and not as something that may besmirch our name, we still are lagging far behind in our fight for equality. We might as well give up now and leave the battlefield! Just like Kamla Bhasin, who is known for her work with the NGO Sangat, mentioned in her conversation with Aamir Khan on Satyamev Jayate, “Who placed your honour in my vagina? And why was it placed there?”
In the end, we all need to ask ourselves, why does the woman carry the burden of protecting the institution of marriage? Where are all the men now?