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A Marriage Certificate Is Not A License To Rape. It Is Time We Had A Law Against Marital Rape

A law against marital rape is required in India, where marriage is considered a license for sex – a wife is often forced against her wishes.

India does not have a law against marital rape. In fact, marital rape is not considered rape at all. Various justifications have been offered for it. But isn’t something seriously wrong with a social system that looks for justifications for rape?

Rape is inhuman. The fact that the perpetrator is the spouse makes it worse. The fact that you see your rapist every day and have to coexist with him in a relationship that is assumed to be one of love and trust, is depraved.

Excuses for not having a law against marital rape in India

Being raped once is bad enough, but having it happen day after day after day is a never ending nightmare. But India refuses to have a law against marital rape. The reason being either the sacrament of marriage, or the stability of the family or misuse of the law.

As for the sacrament of marriage, what can possibly be sacred about rape? Doesn’t the act of rape already destroy the sanctity of marriage?

As for stability of the family, how is such a family stable? What kind of an example is being set for the kids? How can having a cruel and violent rapist for a role model be good for children? They will only learn such behaviour to be the norm and perpetuate it.

And as for misuse of the law, why is everyone so scared? It is not like getting a rape conviction is a cake walk in his country. To my knowledge, rape prosecutions in India are very hard on the victim.

The victim’s character is mercilessly attacked and rapists often go free for lack of material proof, or because the prosecution successfully unhinged an already traumatized victim.

Having a law against marital rape clarifies that we do not condone it

Nobody expects that men should be convicted on the charge of marital rape at the mere word of the wife. The same procedure of diligent evidence gathering and trial would be followed as in any other rape case.

The absence of consent would need to be proven. Many safeguards and clauses can be implemented to prevent misuse of the law. True this would make it extremely hard to prove in practice, but in my opinion, the law still needs to be there.

Because the existence of the law tells people, what they are doing is wrong. Plain and simple. It is important for people, who at least do this casually, to know that the Indian law considers the act as a criminal offence.

As long as we are not willing to criminalise marital rape, we are sending the message that we condone it. And that is how, it is often interpreted by an already patriarchal society that tends to treat women as property.

Marriage is not a license to rape someone

Some comments I noticed on posts regarding this subject clearly demonstrate the necessity of this law:

People who believe in martial rape should not marry or opt out of marriage by divorce without alimony. Why do women want to marry if they don’t want to have a physical relationship. Just to get their bills paid. (part of a comment by Rajib Ranjan Das)

If marital rape is recognised then, Women should not marry, when they feel horny then go knocking doors with the consent form. (part of a comment by Amitabh Das)

It would seem from these disturbing statements, that some men believe that the whole purpose of marriage is to make it legal to rape someone. Surely this notion needs correcting? Marriage should not commit a woman to a life of sexual slavery.

Is a woman no longer a human being after marriage? Should she be denied the basic human right of having a say in how her body is used? Should she be denied the feeling of security in her own home?

Oddly while cruelty is grounds for divorce, marital rape is not considered cruelty. Go figure.

The attitude of the law makers and enforcers has resulted in too many women suffering what can only be described as torture.

Sending mixed messages

What is the harm in having a law against marital rape if definitive proof is required to prosecute it? At least it would be a start. Women would know it is wrong – they don’t realise it is wrong because it is not considered criminal by the courts. They consider it normal and accept it as an unpleasant part of life. Many times, the police won’t register complaints. Having a law would send the clear message that we as a country do not condone marital rape.

What is the point of having beti bachao and beti padhao programs, if at the end of the day we are okay with having them raped by their husbands? Why are we sending girls mixed messages? Are we, as a nation, committed to bringing about gender equality or not?

Even children over the age of 15 are not safeguarded by the law from marital rape. The age of consent is 18 in India. But it is legal for husbands to have sex with their wives with or without their consent provided they are over 15 years old.

A woman’s right to consent cannot end with marriage. Marriage cannot be considered as a blanket consent for sex any time, anywhere. A woman must always retain the right to deny invasion of her body.

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Kanika G, a physicist by training and a mother of 2 girls, started writing to

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  1. Rape is non consensual sex(or related acts) and is essentially an act of brutal violence and abuse whether it is before or after marriage. Therefore laws projecting it as a crime and act of brutality should be in place in a civilised society. While laws can help protect a victim and provide a course of action in case of violations the larger focus must be awareness. How many parents and educationists talk of consent to their kids at the right age. I feel we all shy away from these topics and therefore there is a lack of knowledge and understanding to start with. Parents and teachers should be able to make their kids aware that rape is a brutal criminal act by the perpetrator regardless of the age, gender, circumstance/marital status of the victim involved. Since we largely don’t talk openly about consent and its importance when it comes to sex and sexual interests, we have several problems that are an outcome both before and after marriage-for eg stalking, child abuse, unwanted pregnancy or sexual diseases, rape, marital abuse/rape etc. In addition, all forms of domestic violence and domestic abuse should also come under a definite law in India. In Australia the Domestic and Family violence protection Act 2012 aims expressly at preventing various types of abuse and violence within the family. It is important to be aware that not just between spouses but often even within families, there is frequent misuse of authority and power in relationships under the guise of words like “sacred, family honour, family status, obedience,dependence etc” The more we use these words to describe these relationships, the less likelihood of there being balance, justice and equity. Misusing authority and power, parents and elders frequently abuse children, spouses abuse each other, adult children abuse or mistreat dependent aging and elderly parents. This is all because we often try to mask concepts of marriage/family as ideal constructs and elevate them on a pedestal and worship the ideal rather than understand and acknowledge what happens in reality and practise. Marital rape is also a dangerous form of violence and abuse. It should not be seen as anything else. Burying our heads in the sand is just ridiculous. We need to change laws relating to all types of abuse and violence within the home. The Australian law recognises that every member living in a home is vulnerable to various forms of violence and abuse and thus even live-in partners, old and sick dependents, children and spouses and relatives are covered with protection by this law.

    • Thanks Sonia for reading and sharing your thoughts. Indeed a lot of injustice and oppression is carried out in the name of ‘family name’ and ‘family honour’. It is imperative to focus on making domestic life safe for the vulnerable, independent of age, gender or earning capacity.

  2. Don’t want to give your mind, body and soul in love to your husband, and become one flesh with him till death do you part? Then don’t get married. Dopey libs.

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