Politicians Talking About Consent Are We Ready To Acknowledge Marital Rape As A Crime?

While most progressive countries treat marital rape as a crime we still consider it at par with domestic abuse.

Deepshikha Chakravarti
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Amid the hearing of high court petitions on marital rape, finally, a prominent political leader has spoken about consent and how consent needs to be foregrounded to ensure women's safety. Is India finally going to be wake up that marital rape is a crime and consent is paramount even in a marital relationship? And that marriage does not give carte blanche to a husband on women's bodies?

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in a tweet has said "Consent is amongst the most underrated concepts in our society. It has to be foregrounded to ensure safety for women in a tweet." The tweet has had its fair share of takers and critiques.

Currently, several NGOs RIT Foundation and All India Democratic Women's Association, are seeking striking down of the exception granted to husbands under the Indian rape law. Petitions have also been filed by men's rights organisations that are opposing the pleas.

Recently, while hearing the pleas a Delhi High Court bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and C Hari Shankar had observed, “Just because she is married, does she lose her right to say ‘no’?” The bench felt exceptions given to husbands under section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) creates a firewall. It is the court that has to see if this is violative of Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

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Marital Rape As An Offence ? Centre Says Large Hearing Of All Stakeholders Is Required


The central government in its affidavit has taken a stand that criminalising marital rape may "become a phenomenon that may destabilise the institution of marriage and an easy tool for harassing the husbands." Even women political leaders in India have never taken a clear stand on the issue, so far. While most progressive countries treat marital rape as a crime we still consider it at par with domestic abuse. The Indian laws are a hand me down from the British Imperial system. However, in 1991 the British criminalised marital rape.

In an earlier interview with SheThePeople spoke about marital rape to Equality Now’s Divya Srinivasan. While criminalising marital rape is a step to end violence against when it is a long road for a country like India given our social fabric. The lawyer had shared, "Even if it is a stranger, it is most difficult to report a rape case. One of the most common myths in rape cases is everybody thinks most women are raped by strangers whereas, in fact, in most cases, it is done by someone who is known to the survivor. So when you are reporting against your husband, even if the law changes, it is going to be difficult in terms of the backlash that the woman is going to get from her community, neighbours, family, etc, And also with the police and judicial attitude in terms of actually getting them to file the complaint seriously, it is a long road ahead. But we can’t even start with all those social changes until and unless the law changes. So, the change in the law is the first barrier that we need to overcome then we need to look at everything else." You can Read more about it here.

It is 2022 can it be really difficult to understand that a woman, whether married, unmarried or a sex worker is the sole owner of her body? To establish a sexual relationship her consent must be established. It is about time that political leaders take an active interest in remedying this problem.

The views expressed are the author's own.

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