Indian Law still holds the institution of marriage as so holy that there is no premise for acknowledging the existence of marital rape within it. According to a UN Women’s report, by 2011 at least 52 countries, around the world, had criminalised marital rape. Yet it remains an ongoing debate in our country as to why we should not criminalise it.

The Power Dynamics in Indian Bedrooms

Like our households, the bedrooms in India run according to the dictates and desires of the male partner. A man decides when a couple will consummate the relationship, and his decisions are not to be questioned.

For long love and courtship have been depicted without any sexual component in mainstream media. The current scenario in urban India is changing. However, the truth is most Indian men do not believe in courting women, but stalking is fine.

Why bother charming her, when you can punch her down on the bed, cradle her and force your way to your satisfaction? Women are looked upon as a vessel to bear a child and fulfil your desires.

But here, the blame lies in our tight-lipped attitude as a society to the topics of sex and love. Men in our country are taught to be strong, powerful, stubborn and self-centred. In most marriages in India, sex happens before love can bloom. Sadly, sex continues to happen whether or not there is love, or care left in the relationship.

Forced Sex in a marriage goes beyond Carnal Desires

Rape is the way a man subjugates his wife in our country. He makes sure that she knows who is the boss here. The game of power, which begins on the marital bed is expected to tame the wife even outside the bedroom.

This aspect was so captured in the 2017 film “Lipstick Under My Burkha”, where Shirin’s (played by Konkana Sen Sharma) husband rapes her before telling her to remain a woman and stop trying to become a husband.

Another aspect of marital rape is to force women into pregnancies against their wills. The desire to produce a brigade of male progenies drives many men to rape their wives, if they choose to protest further pregnancies, or god forbid, utter the word “family planning”.

Read:  Marital Rape in India: ‘Sacredness’ of Family vs Welfare of Women

Women are indeed their worst enemies here

The reservation on criminalising marital rape is not entirely misplaced. The case quoted here is that of Act 498A, which has been misused by many women to drag innocent men into courts out of vengeance or hatred.

How then would a husband prove that the said sexual encounter was consensual and not forced?

The well being of millions of married women, who survive marital rape on day-to-day basis is at stake here. But we are at a standstill because court finds it hard to trust that women will not misuse this ruling.

The only exception Supreme court has made, is the criminalisation of sexual intercourse with a wife below eighteen years of age, on Wednesday. It is indeed a welcome news. But does it mean that once the wife turns eighteen, the husband gets a free hand to rape her?

Marital Rape is not as complex as some people are making it to be

In 2016, Maneka Gandhi, Minister of Women and Child Development, countered recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, to criminalize marital rape, by making an argument in Rajya Sabha saying:

“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.”

For ages we have been trying to cover up, what is a serious crime under the guise of spousal rights, and social customs. We need to peel off all these layers and call spade a spade. When a man forces himself on a woman, against her will, it is rape.

The man can be a stranger, a relative or a husband. His relationship with the women does not lessen the brutality her body and soul go through.

Also Read: Not Criminalising Marital Rape Violates Women’s Rights: NGOs To HC

Dr 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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