Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has said that marital rape should not be made an offence in India. His shocking comment will hurt thousands of women in this country, who can do nothing but endure sexual and physical violence at hands of their husbands, because it is legal. Once you add the word marital in front of rape, the crime becomes acceptable to many. Because how can sex between a married couple be anything but consensual? Isn’t it a husband’s right, to use his wife’s body to gain sexual satisfaction? The bitter truth is that even today, a woman’s consent holds no relevance on a marital bed in our society.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has said that marital rape should not be made an offence in India.
  • A woman’s consent holds no relevance on marital bed in our society.
  • Women are bearing a gruesome cost to keep the family oriented fabric of our society intact.
  • What morality can we boast of, when we fail to give married women this basic right to say ‘no’?

The bitter truth is that even today, a woman’s consent holds no relevance on a marital bed in our society.

According to The Times Of India, Ex-CJI Misra was speaking at a conference in Bengaluru where a student asked him that shouldn’t rape laws be gender neutral and marital rape be considered a crime? To which he replied, “Because some country has made marital rape an offence… I don’t think that marital rape should be regarded as an offence in India, because it will create absolute anarchy in families and our country is sustaining itself because of the family platform which upholds family values. We still respect the family background and many other facets.”

It is disappointing that such a remark comes from a man who led the bench which scrapped Section 377, thus decriminalising homosexuality. Misra’s comments actually lay bare the faulty fabric which forms the framework of our society. Our values and family oriented system considers marriage as a sacred bond. There are gender-specific rules on which this relationship should ideally function. Each gender must do their duty without asking any questions, for a fulfilling matrimonial life. So when it comes to a wife, it is her duty to sexually satisfy her husband.

Once a woman consents to marrying a man, she gives him her consent to have sexual intercourse as and when he pleases, or so everyone believes.

Over centuries, the society has conditioned Indian men into assuming that consenting to marriage means consenting to sex for a lifetime. They do not have to ask for their wife’s consent every time they want to have sex. So when women resist intercourse they think it is okay to use force. Surely it isn’t an offense to claim what is yours, in this case your wife’s body. The society on the other hand has overlooked this behaviour, because it gains nothing if women begin to reclaim their agency. The family platform that CJI Misra is talking about will only remain intact if women continue to obey, silently.

But sex without consent is always rape and marital relations cannot be an exception. Are we saying that we are so incapable of changing our ways, that we would rather let husbands rape their wives, than make them accountable for their actions? Is Indian society so hopelessly fractured that the only way to preserve or family-oriented way of life is to change nothing? Must wives endure rape and hide physical injuries they incur from resisting in the name of preserving the Indian way of family life?

Must wives suffer in silence in the name of preserving the Indian way of family life?

Yes criminalising marital rape would lead to absolute anarchy. Many marriages will crumble and many people would face legal consequences for actions which they thought they were entitled to. But peace and harmony in our homes can’t come at the cost of sexual violence in bedrooms. Both women and men have the right to say ‘no’.Their partners must respect that, instead of physically forcing their will on them.

Marital rape is a crime, there is no doubt about it. What we need to question instead is why are we so resistant to change? And is there no other way to save our values and family oriented infrastructure than depriving married women of basic rights?

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Picture credit: PTI

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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