Society and Culture

Rape in marriage: Still a violation of consent and therefore rape

The Union government recently told the court that marital rape should not be criminalised, because what an “individual wife” considers rape may not appear the same to others, and because this would destabilise families and be used to “harass husbands”.

Sep 2, 2017
The Union government recently told the court that marital rape should not be criminalised, because what an “individual wife” considers rape may not appear the same to others, and because this would destabilise families and be used to “harass husbands”. In this upside-down view, the hassle of seeking redress for sexual violence is the problem, not the violence itself.
 
Across the world, legal frameworks have struggled with the question of marital rape. Some countries, like India, treat it on par with domestic abuse and subject to civil remedies, and criminalise it only if the spouses are separated or if the woman is a minor. Apart from the social reflex that assumes that men have a right to their wives’ bodies, the burden of evidence has also been held up as a reason to exempt marital rape – how would one prove that a woman has not consented in this specific instance? But the high hurdles of proof and the cultural bias against accepting the crime, should be all the more reason to legally recognise the crime for what it is.
 
One by one, most progressive legal systems now recognise that spousal rape is a crime, India being one of the shameful exceptions. Statistics prove that Indian women face the greatest violence and trauma in their own homes; marital rape is usually a long-running pattern of abuse. Recognising it as such is a crucial test for any jurisdiction that claims to treat women as equal citizens.
 
Times of India, September 2, 2017

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