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Guj HC Stresses On Why Marital Rape Can’t Be Ignored Anymore

The Gujarat High Court has observed that 'rape is a rape' even if it is committed by the victim’s husband, while stressing that the silence shrouding sexual violence against women in India needs to be broken

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Rudrani Gupta
New Update
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In a significant judgement, Gujarat High Court has said that rape is a crime even if it is committed by the husband. The court said this along with pointing out the illegality of marital rape in several countries across the world. It has dismissed the bail plea of a woman who was accused of being complicit in the rape and assault of her daughter-in-law through her husband. 

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The court headed by Justice DA Joshi said, "A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is rape, be it performed by a man, the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’"  

Details of the case

A complaint was initially filed by the daughter-in-law, married in Rajkot last year, who accused her husband and in-laws of rape and domestic violence. In the complaint, she alleged that she was forced to perform sexual acts with her husband which was videographed, circulated on the family WhatsApp group and posted on pornographic sites to earn money. She said that she was threatened and intimidated by her in-laws. 

Filed in August 2023, the complaint led to the arrest of the husband and the in-laws under sections 498A (cruelty by husband or relatives), 376 (rape), 354 (molestation) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code. However, the mother-in-law filed a bail plea saying that marital rape is not a crime. 

Marital rape is illegal in many countries

But Justice Joshi denied her plea and insisted that she undergoes trial. He said, "Marital rape is illegal in 50 American States, 3 Australian states, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia, and several others. The United Kingdom, which the present code largely draws from, has also removed the exception pursuant to a judgment rendered by the House of Lords in R v. R in the year 1991. Therefore, the code that was made by the rulers then, has itself abolished the exception given to husbands.”  

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Marital rape is normalised

Noting that marital rape falls under the wide spectrum of sexual violence, the high court said that such crimes are often ignored as 'minor'. They are often trivialised and normalised. The court also said that films and popular culture play a crucial role in romanticising and invigorating marital rape. 

"These attitudes which indulgently view the crime through prisms such as ‘boys will be boys’ and condone them, nevertheless have a lasting and pernicious effect on the survivors,” the judgement rightly said. 

Moreover, the court also pointed out the difficulty that women in our society face when it comes to reporting sexual violence. Gender violence often remains unseen and hidden in a culture of silence "This silence needs to be broken. In doing so, men, perhaps more than women, have a duty and role to play in averting and combating violence against women," the judgement said. 

gender violence Gujarat High Court marital rape sexual violence
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