With Karnataka HC’s Recent Observation On Marital Rape, Is It Time We Redefine Marriage?

Yes, there are chances that a man may end up with a woman who lies, just as there are endless chances a woman may end up with a man who rapes her.

The Karnataka High Court made a few observations regarding a case recently.

The court has not explicitly struck down the marital rape exception, but it has also refused to quash rape charges filed by a wife against her husband.

According to @newsworthywithab similar cases challenging the constitutionality of the marital rape exception are being heard in the Delhi and Gujarat HCs currently.

To those who are not familiar, Indian Penal Code Section under 375 (rape) exempts all sexual acts between a husband and his wife.

This observation, in essence, could be a guiding light to future cases where a woman charges her husband of rape, and hence, shape future arguments regarding the much neglected grey area of everyday life of many women.

Marital rape is not considered a crime – Rape is a Rape

In India, marital rape is not considered a crime. Anything non-consensual is always forced and so is rape. Rape is non consensual act of sex. But the arguments made against rape laws are not just illogical but sometimes, brutally insensitive as well.

The moment law supports a wife, ‘what about men’s rights’ starts poping-up!

  • “How is it rape when sex happens between two married adults?”
  • Why bring law into this?”
  • “Isn’t a wife to oblige when her husband needs her?”
  • “Isn’t sex an expression of love?”
  • “This is natural, if she didn’t want this why did she even get married in the first place?”
  • “If the wife won’t oblige, the man will always look for other options outside the marriage”
  • “The law will give women power to lie and falsely accuse husbands”
  • “What about men’s rights?”
  • “This concept of marital rape is western and is against culture and tradition”
  • “This will break families

The comments and statements reflect sheer lack of awareness about basic human rights and dignity that marital rape so deprives many women of.

Marital rape is something that women don’t even dare to discuss. Instead, they suffer in silence.

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Why do families ‘break’ as soon as the wife is empowered?

What is worse is that people think a much-needed law has the power to break family and threaten culture when continuous and regular torture is not seen as a threat to life.

#notallmen? So is #notallwomen

Now, I am not saying some women can’t lie.

Yes, there are many chances that a man may end up with a woman who lies, just as there are endless chances a woman may end up with a man who rapes her.

Which is why we need a law to protect these women who have been at the receiving end of incessant hatred and abuse, because which other lie is greater than committing something as heinous as rape behind the tag of something as precious as a marriage?

Keeping a wife financially dependent is the trick

Keeping women financially dependent on husbands is also a way and an extension of torture.

It keeps many women stuck in this vicious cycle of being subservient to their husbands, raising a family, and quietly absorbing all shocks, all trauma, all violence.

Marital rape laws will identify the voice of the countless voiceless victims.
I know there are a lot of men who would say #notallmen, which I would proudly answer with #notallwomen.

Just as not all men commit rape, not all women lie.

But if it still bothers many men (because women can always accuse men and put them behind bars and run away with all the money in the form of alimony and maintenance – now, I am not saying this, this is an argument made against rape and divorce laws by men’s rights activists) and women seem so scary and such calculative plotters, I would suggest it’s better for such men to then not marry any woman ever.

Do we really let women choose?

Guess what, unfortunately many girls didn’t have this option and most of them were blindfolded and pushed to take the plunge and spend their entire life under other person’s shadow and this has been happening since forever – women, with all their fears and inhibitions, have been married off to men who were total strangers to them.

In a country where politicians have gone on record and made statements like – Nirbhaya shouldn’t have fought back, had she complied, she would have been alive today – where people blame clothes and food and mobile phones for rape, where people blame going out late night for rape, the safest place for a girl is considered her own mighty-walled home, guarded by men of the family, who will believe the victims of marital rape? That something like marital rape would naturally sounds bizarre, and accusing sons that parents are so proud of would obviously be a sin very great.

But we have to draw a line somewhere between emotional and physical space, recognize pain and torment – emotional, mental and physical, accept help and demand respect that every human being rightfully deserves.

Rape, after all, is and always will be, synonymous with power struggle and violence.

Right to basic human dignity and health is an essential part of human rights, especially right to life.

The observations made by the Karnataka High Court, bring much needed attention to the voices of silence, voices of shame and unacceptance, voices carrying the burden of family and cohesion, painful voices forgotten in large family gatherings but reminded of in private.

We need to talk about what’s in private, because private is always political and political always trickles down to private. And marital rape is a political tool of power – a domestic tool, a tool nonetheless.

Image credit: a still from short film Consent/Movifi, YouTube

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Chaitanya Srishti

Mostly writing, other times painting. Here to celebrate little wins. I am on the same page as you, just a different book - you read mine, I'll read yours. read more...

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