Men declaring marriage strike on Twitter, in light of the discussion around the criminalisation of marital rape in India, makes one thing clear: consent is still a lost concept to many in our country. The hesitation being expressed over marital rape being made an offence as the High Court in Delhi hears a clutch of petitions regarding the same is not how effectively a revised law will be implemented. But how women will misuse it.
Presently, rape is an offence in India but marital rape, in those precise terms, is not. The law, under an exception to the Indian Penal Code (IPC)’s Section 375, states, “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”
A bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and C Hari Shankar is hearing petitions for an overturning of the marital rape exception. Read arguments being made in court. A simultaneous uproar has erupted outside the court, among the general citizenry, especially those voicing their opinions on social media.
Tweets show a section of men is expressing fear and fury over the possibility of rape (non-consensual sex) in marriage being criminalised and have vowed to go on a ‘strike’ if such a law is introduced. Thank you to these men for weeding themselves out of the marriage market on their own. Women are better off steered clear of them.
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In India, the institution of marriage is understood to be sacrosanct. This sanctity, for many, is preserved on the foundation of implicit consent by the married woman to provide limitless, on-demand sex to her husband. It’s like women are expected to give up agency over their bodies, if they had any to begin with, as soon as they acquire married status.
Under the marriage license, men can continue with impunity to force themselves on their wives in the bedroom when they are in the ‘mood for sex.’ Many women comply.
How can they resist in a society that is so averse to divorce that the national rates are sparse at approximately one percent? With the system having rendered so many women dependent on their husbands for financial support, do they have the resources to muster up courage and exit abusive marriages?
Men on social media are finding it difficult to call non-consensual sex in marriage for what it is: rape.
And as a single woman, hearing their perspectives on marriage is truly terrifying. “What’s purpose of marriage at all if husband was to be sent to jail for sex against his wife’s wish, doesn’t it destroy family, ruin children and break their marriage?” wrote an IPS officer on Twitter. And there are hundreds of similar echoes from men, old and young.
Is the ‘purpose’ of marriage in India to yield sex from a wife when she doesn’t want to have it? Is this the kind of cultural sanctity people are striving to preserve? Sanctity that rests on the back of the abuse, rape, exploitation, subjugation of women?
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The trend of men hijacking the spotlight when it is on women highlighting gender inequality is not a new one. For every #MeToo, a #NotAllMen stands up in defence. Every time women bring up gender violence, men invalidate the conversation by fronting the odd false rape case.
Why must we encircle and altogether protest the imposition of a law against gender violence on the argument that it will frame innocent men? Don’t all laws come with room for error to be misused?
Plus, how come the misuse of a law against marital rape is generating more opposition than the present, urgent concern of marital rape itself? What does it show – that men will fight tooth and nail to shrug off accountability in a crime that so many from their gender are guilty of rather than assist in the fight against the crime itself?
If men who believe marital rape is a non-concept are demonstrating a strike against marriage, I’d say, good for the women.
Views expressed are the author’s own.