Is India Finally Ready To Criminalize Marital Rape?

"I resisted as hard as I could, but he didn't stop."

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According to Dictionary.com, the definition of rape is 'unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.

In India, rape (including penetration by any object) is a crime, but there is one exception to this horrific act: Marital rape. Section 375 in the Indian Penal Code states 'Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.' You read that right, a husband is allowed to force sexual acts on his wife, without her consent without ever worrying about legal recourse. 

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Everyday, hundreds of helpless women are objectified by their husbands who commit horrific sexual and violent acts on them, against their will. "I still remember the night of 14 February 2014 which was also his birthday. We had a heated argument and then he forced himself on me. I resisted as hard as I could, but he didn't stop. And then he inserted a torch inside me. I had to be admitted to hospital and I bled for 60 days after that" an unknown victim told BBC News. 

I resisted as hard as I could, but he didn't stop

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Recently, Maneka Ghandi, Minister for Women and Child Development openly stated that criminalizing martial rape in India is not possible because of social factors "It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc." Strangely enough, just last year, Ghandhi's view on marital rape was completely different when she said: "My opinion is that violence against women shouldn't be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man's need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness."

Why did Ghandhi's mind suddenly change over such a serious subject? How does the government still allow a married man to perform sexual acts on his wife, without her will, and often times causing her body serious harm? How is this different than domestic violence?  

75% of married women in India are subjected to marital rape.

Whether it is your husband or a random man on the street, rape is rape. According to International Centre for Women, 1 in 5 married men have admitted to forcing their wives into sexual acts. The United Nations Population Fund reports that 75% of married women in India are subjected to marital rape. No woman should ever feel threatened in her home by any man, including her husband. Parliament has made small steps in acknowledging this problem by funding states to set up 24/7 helpline for women affected by violence, but it's about time greater efforts are made and parliament takes action criminalizing such a heinous crime.  

If you or anyone you know is dealing with rape, please visit:
India Rape Crisis Center
Safe Delhi

 

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