No criminalising marital rape: Consent is of utmost importance say women's rights activists
The Union Government on Tuesday said that marital rape cannot be made a criminal offence in India as that would destabilise the institution of marriage and could become an easy way for harassing husbands.
The response of the Government came after numerous petitions were filed seeking declaration of marital rape or forced intercourse on spouses after marriage as criminal offence. The pleas sought the declaration of Section 375 (offence of rape) of IPC as unconstitutional as it is discriminatory against married women being sexually assaulted.
The Government also said that the Supreme Court and the High Courts have observed the increasing misuse of Section 498 (harassment caused to a married woman by her husband and in-laws) of the IPC, and keeping that in view, criminalizing marital rape would be detrimental to the institution of marriage.
Former Governor Swaraj Kaushal took to Twitter and said that nothing like marital rape exists, he said, "There is nothing like marital rape. Our homes should not become police stations,"
The affidavit, filed through Central Government standing counsel Monica Arora said, "It has to be ensured adequately that marital rape does not become a phenomenon which may destabilise the institution of marriage apart from being an easy tool for harassing the husbands,"
The Centre said since marital rape is not defined or law, while the offence of rape is defined under Section 375 of the IPC, defining marital rape would require a broad based consensus of the society.
Section 375 of the IPC has also been criticized for decriminalizing rape of a girl in a marriage above the age of 15, which has also been upheld by the Supreme Court.
The Centre said that it would be difficult to prove marital rape before the law as there would be a dearth of evidence, which could easily be a weapon to victimize husbands.
The Delhi High Court also heard pleas from NGOs which said that marital rape should not be criminalised, and also alleged, misuse of gender laws.
Oneindia reached out to Women's Rights Activist and author Ranjana Kumari and she said, "It is important to understand the idea of rape. Men think that they are entitled to women's bodies after marriage, which is not the case."
"It has to be understood that consent is of utmost importance, and a woman has the full right over her body and sexuality," she added.
She also said that a law against marital rape should be legislated, and that if there is no proper law which is defined for the crime, marital rapes will not cease to occur.
Refuting Governor Kaushal's statement she said, if so many western countries can have that law, why can't we?
However, Lawyer and Activist Abha Singh held a different view, she said, "We have enough laws for women to register sexual assault, and we don't need another law separately for marital rape."
Reiterating the Centre's stand, she said, "If a law such as marital rape is formed, it will be misused like 498A and will be an easy tool to harass husbands,"
She further added, "Marital rape as an offence is difficult to prove in the Courts, because there is lack of evidence and nobody can say what happens inside closed doors,"
She also questioned, "Why will women stay with such abusive husbands?"
In March 2016, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi, also opposed criminalisng of marital rape, she said, "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."
With the Indian Judiciary delivering landmark judgments like invalidating instant triple, to declaring right to privacy a fundamental right, activists are now pushing for criminalization of marital rape.