The Karnataka High Court on March 23 upheld the charges framed against a survivor’s husband under section 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code. It also observed that the institution of marriage does not confer “any special male privilege or a license for unleashing of a brutal beast.” The court added that rape is punishable for a man even if he’s a husband.
Rejecting a man’s plea to drop rape charges levelled against him by his wife, Justice M Nagaprasanna criticised the ideology on which the marital rape exception is based. He noted that age-old thought that husbands are rulers of their wives, their body, mind and souls should be effaced for it is archaic, regressive.
Suggested Reading: Marital Rape: Why Are Indian Wives Still Denied The Power Of Consent?
Karnataka HC on Marital Rape
The case pertained to a couple who got married in 2006 but the relationship got strained after a few years. The woman had filed a complaint in 2017 accusing her husband of domestic violence and sexually abusing their daughter. The FIR was registered under sections 506, 498A, 323, 377 and the POCSO Act. Section 376 (rape) and relevant sections of the POCSO Act were used in the charge sheet as well.
The court observed that no exemptions are absolute and that it was for the legislature to look into the issue of altering the existing exemptions for marital rape. "A woman being a woman is given certain status; a woman being a wife is given a different status. Likewise, a man being a man is punished for his acts; a man being a husband is exempted for his acts. It is this inequality that destroys the soul of the Constitution which is Right to Equality," the court observed during the hearing on Wednesday.
Marital Rape In India
India is one of the few countries where marital rape has still not been criminalised. There was a debate over the same earlier this year when a bench in Delhi High Court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the marital rape exceptions in the Indian Penal Code.
The petitioners wanted the exceptions—one, a medical procedure or intervention, and two, sexual intercourse between a man with his wife when she is over 18 years of age—to be struck down. They argued it violated the fundamental rights of married women.
The counter debate over the issue was that striking the exception down would affect the “sanctity” and institution of marriage, claiming the law will be ‘misused’ despite studies stating that minuscule cases of rapes turn out to be false.