“Marital rape is not a husband’s privilege, but rather a violent act and an injustice that must be criminalized,” said a Gujarat High Court.
Sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the spouse is termed as Marital Rape or Spousal Rape. It does not necessarily involve violence but the lack of consent is the essential element and marital rape is hence considered as one of the forms of sexual abuse and domestic violence. There was a time in history when sexual intercourse between spouses was considered as a right of a spouse but engaging in the act without the consent of the spouse is now considered by the society and the law as a crime. It has been recognized as rape by various international conventions around the world.
It is very important to teach the meaning and importance of consent to people but when the consent of a person is disregarded by the members of their family, it leads to the hideous crimes of domestic and social violence. There are various international organizations across the world have tried to criminalize the act when it first got attention internationally during the second half of the 20th century. There are countries that have criminalized marital rape but there are countries where it is widely tolerated and not even considered as a crime. India is one such country where marital rape is not considered a crime.
It seems that the hope for criminalizing marital rape is false. If marital rape is criminalized in India, it would be a great step towards empowering the women of the country. There might be people who don’t support marital rape publicly for fear of apprehension, hatred and damage to reputation and public image but people don’t publicly oppose it either. It is only lack of knowledge which makes people ignorant towards the concept of consent. The reason behind marital rape not being a criminal offence in India is the illiteracy rate, poverty and strong religious beliefs in the country and the fact that the marriage itself is inviolable.
On an average, almost 5.4 per cent of a married woman are the victims of the sexual violence from their partners. Almost 2.5 per cent married women are forced to have sex without their consent and almost 3.5 per cent married women are threatened to have sex without her consent. The impacts of marital rape are traumatizing and devastating. Marital rape to women has tremendously increased the rate of miscarriages and suicides by women.
When a person, in India or anywhere where marital rape is not a crime, does not consider it important to seek the consent of their spouse for sex, does it make marriage a contract for sex? It is shocking that marital rape is not considered a crime in India while several countries have criminalized the act. The husband who commits marital rape is charged with a minor offence of cruelty for which he can be imprisoned for a period of three years if proven guilty. There remains no law to protect married women in India against sexual abuse and domestic violence. The only protection a woman subjected to marital rape can seek is a restraining order under the legislation for domestic violence. The question which still remains unanswered is that how do we define the rape of an unmarried woman or a married woman? Does rape get any less criminal if the woman is married and the man who raped her is her husband?
What do you think should be the punishment for marital rape?
let me know your thoughts in the comments below!