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Marriage no excuse to ‘unleash brutal beast on wife: Karnataka HC on marital rape

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Bengaluru, Mar 23: In a significant ruling, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday upheld the application of the rape law to a husband who rapes his wife. "A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the "husband" on the woman "wife", the court observed.

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The age-old regressive thought that the husbands are the rulers of their wives, their body, mind and soul should be effaced, a single bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna said while refusing to interfere with the proceedings initiated against the petitioner on charges of rape, cruelty, along with offences under the POCSO Act, for alleged sexual acts against his wife and daughter.

"The institution of marriage does not confer, cannot confer and in my considered view, should not be construed to confer, any special male privilege or a license for unleashing of a brutal beast. If it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband," the High Court order said according to LIVE LAW.

Further stating that such acts of husbands scar the soul of the wives, the court observed that it is, therefore, imperative for the lawmakers to now "hear the voices of silence". The court held that any such exemption for husbands will go against Article 14 which guarantees the right to equality.

All human beings under the Constitution are to be treated equally, be it a man, be it a woman and others, it said, adding any thought of inequality, in any provision of law, would fail the test of Article 14 of the Constitution.

"Woman and man being equal under the Constitution cannot be made unequal by Exception-2 to Section 375 of the IPC," it further said, noting that it is for the lawmakers to ponder over the existence of such inequalities in law.

"For ages man donning the robes of a husband has used the wife as his chattel; but his crude behavior notwithstanding his existence because of a woman, the court said.

Marital rape or spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the spouse's consent. The issue has been the subject of much debate in India.

The lack of consent is the essential element and need not involve physical violence. Marital rape is considered a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Although, historically, sexual intercourse within marriage was regarded as a right of spouses, engaging in the act without the spouse's consent is now widely classified as rape by many societies around the world, repudiated by international conventions, and increasingly criminalized.

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers the forced sex in marriages as a crime only when the wife is below age 15. Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offense under the IPC.

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