Marital Rape: OK or not ok?

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | PUSHPA KURUP
Published Mar 19, 2016, 6:42 am IST
Updated Mar 19, 2016, 6:42 am IST
‘‘The total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution,” said Bertrand Russell.
Provoked, directed by Jag Mundhra released in 2006, stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Naveen Andrews. The movie is loosely based on the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia who killed her husband, unable to bear his brutality and repeated rapes. A scene from the movie.
 Provoked, directed by Jag Mundhra released in 2006, stars Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Naveen Andrews. The movie is loosely based on the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia who killed her husband, unable to bear his brutality and repeated rapes. A scene from the movie.

Will the Government consider criminalizing marital rape? Ms Maneka Gandhi, the Minister for Women and Child Development, gave a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, “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 the level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs and mindset of society to treat the marriage as a sacrament…,” One who speaks up for stray dogs has forgotten the underdogs of society.

Spousal rape can be broadly divided into three categories: (1) Force only rapes – where the man uses just enough force to subdue sand control the woman. This is forced sex in its simplest and least harmful form. Most women would be familiar with one! (2) Violent rape – this combines domestic violence with rape.

 

(3) Sadistic rape – which may include a variety of unacceptable or abnormal acts or when the woman is forced to do things which she does not want to do (that’s putting it mildly, keeping in mind the ‘sentiments’ of the rapists).
How’s India different from the rest of the world? More than half of the world has outlawed marital/spousal rape a quarter of a century ago. All over the Americas, in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines and parts of Africa, marital rape is recognized as an offence.

Why do we cite poverty as an excuse? Are we poorer or more backward than Liberia, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Somalia, some of the African nations that have criminalized marital rape? When Poland could take a bold step as early as 1932, how can India justify dilly dallying in 2016?

The hardest is ‘marriage is sacrament’ argument. Shall we now call it ‘holy rape’? Aren’t Muslim marriages sacred too? Why does India allow the triple talaq to instantaneously dissolve the marriage bond when many Muslim nations have banned or restricted the practice? What has religion, beliefs and sentiments got to do with rape? Has any religious text explicitly stated that a man can rape his wife?

Indian Penal Code has been amended umpteen times but it still remains an 1860 document inherited from the British. This legacy afflicts some of our neighbors too - Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. China’s sluggishness in this respect comes as no surprise as this pseudo-communist nation has never been known for its human rights record. On the other hand, our tiny neighbor Bhutan has declared marital rape illegal. No wonder its happiness quotient is sky high!

In December 1993, the UN ‘Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women’ condemned marital rape as a human rights violation. By the first decade of the current century many developing countries including Muslim nations such as Malaysia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan had outlawed the practice.

Who owns a woman’s body?

Ownership of one’s own body implies the right to cover or expose it as one wishes, to decide when, where, how and with whom to have sex, to avail of or avoid contraception, to have or not to have a baby, to have or not to have an abortion, to have a hysterectomy, silicone implants, face lift, tummy tuck, nose job or whatever.

We live in a society where even some judges think stranger rape cases can be closed if the rapist marries the victim. While rape in any form is utterly degrading and humiliating, marital rape in essence is more painful than stranger rape. It is a betrayal of trust. It undermines the very basis of the marital relationship. It subverts the marriage bond by repudiating the woman’s basic need for love and respect.

When rape is committed by a person to whom you have bequeathed your life the scars are bound to last a lifetime. Women have sentiments too! Marital or partner rape must be understood in its context. It often occurs alongside other forms of abusive behaviour.

Women victims have a hard choice - between unwanted sex and physical violence, or between unwanted sex and abandonment. While stranger rape may be a one-off occurrence, marital rape is likely to be a recurring phenomenon. The abused woman has to continue living with the rapist for there is no escape. It can be terrifying and traumatic.

In a civilized society, forced sex should be seen as a criminal offence whether it happens within the narrow boundaries of marriage or in other consensual non-legal relationships, such as among live-in partners or gay couples. “The total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution,” wrote Bertrand Russell in his masterpiece ‘Marriage and Morals’. Ironically, in India today the law protects the prostitute from rape but fails to protect the wife!  

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Location: India, Kerala




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