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Marital Rape – Culture Over Consent?

Marital rape is an alarming issue in India. But why is the government silent and reluctant about it? Is our 'culture' greater and more important than womens' consent?

“No means no”, a wife’s no to her husband is counted in this, right? Some would say yes, of course, consent is irrespective of any relationship, but some would argue about the destruction of the sanctity of a marriage that is very important in a country like India. According to the study conducted in India by International Centre for Research on Women and United Population Fund in 2014, it suggests that 1 in 3 men admit raping their wives, surprising right but what is marital rape actually? It is an act of sexual intercourse between married couples without the consent of the spouse. It is considered as a crime in many countries of the world, Poland to be the first one to criminalize it while India being one of those 36 countries where marital rape is still not criminalized.

Does marrying someone also give you a right over their body?

According to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code marital rape is an exception to sexual assault stating, “sexual acts by a man with his wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”.

So, does this mean, marriage implies consent, making spouses to have all the rights over other spouses’ body, this is what we call a traditional view of marriages but the feminists for long have been arguing about the legal identity that it steals from the women in India because with this being legal, women are considered as the property of men, and all the Equality, Human rights, Feminism that we discuss in our living rooms, seems like it gets invisible when it moves to our bedrooms.

Why is the government hesitant about marital rape?

But what is so controversial about this issue, that governments are reluctant to make legislation on it. There have been different viewpoints on Marital Rape while the advocates of the legislation argue about marriage as participation of equals, but nonconsensual intercourse makes one spouse a sex slave of the other one. And the other side talks about how this law against marital rape can destabilize an institution like marriage which is of utmost importance in a society like ours, they also question how the evidence could be collected and how it can be proved that the sexual intercourse that happened wasn’t forced and it could give rise to fraudulent cases but the other side dismisses the argument saying fraud cases are being filed for every other crime and this flawed argument should not stop women from reporting, what they have been suffering from a long time by ignoring their consent to protect their culture.

In 2018 Congress MP Shashi Tharoor proposed The Women’s Sexual, Reproductive, and Menstrual Rights Bill which recommended more freedom for women with respect to their “inherent right to their sexual and reproductive choices.” and omission of Exception 2 of Section 375 but it is still pending in the parliament.

There is no denying the fact that proving nonconsensual intercourse would be quite difficult in medical terms as well as otherwise but should this stop us from making a law on it because rape is rape and the idea “7 Janm ka Bandhan” does not give anyone any right to engage in sexual activity without the other person’s (spouse here) consent.

Read about the Study of international Center for Research on women and Population Fund here.


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