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MARITAL RAPE: A LEGAL CRIME

It’s not rape”, husband said.

Marital rape is a huge problem in India. 1 in 3 men admit to raping their wives and 1 Indian woman is raped by her husband every 3 seconds.

In some sort of theory, marriage in India is a reversed institution, a sacred bond that brings together two individuals for their joint pursuit of Duty (Dharma), Possession (Artha), Sexual desires (Kama), and Salvation (Moksha). Quite a theory, right? But the extensive media coverage given to the Rideout case has raised a number of questions about this subject. Some questions to be raised include: What actions should be defined as rape when the acts involve husband and wife? When women are forced to have sexual relations with their husbands, do they accept it as a part of their marital duties or does the use of force have long-term negative consequences for their marriage? And finally, in what type of marriage does forced sex or marital rape occur?

The definition of marital rape is complicated further by the fact that forced sex may not be considered a crime in marriage. Laws in 29 states specifically state that a man cannot be prosecuted for raping his wife. Equality Now's report found out that India was one of only 10 out of 82 jurisdictions surveyed that still legalized rape within marriage and protected the rapist husband from prosecution. The police mostly file cases of marital rape under IPC section 377, where there is forced anal penetration and in a few instances, under section 498A, if previous cases of cruelty have already been registered. As per an article published by THE HINDU, a 42-yar-old woman, Asha (name changed) has spent 24 years of her life tolerating the assaults. Sitting at a counseling center at Mumbai, she vividly recalled each episode of violence like that of being slapped, beaten with a stick, sexually abused in private and verbally abused in public, being abandoned and later treated like a slave. But she says that she has clung to her marriage for it ensures a roof over the head, a one-room-kitchen flat that is in her husband’s name. Having studied till class X, she has taken up odd jobs, but says she can’t fend for herself, given her poor earnings. She first lodged a domestic violence case against her husband in 2007. Nine years later, in August 2015, Asha landed in the emergency room of a public hospital with injuries on her private parts that doctors noted as those inflicted in a sexual assault. At the police station, the assault was seen as “a matter between a husband and wife" and NO CASE was filed. In our Indian society, love marriage is crime but marital rape is not. Why?

Causes and Consequences

Women who have been subjected to marital rape, have suffered from post-traumatic stress signs including clinical depression, fear anxiety, low confidence, low self-esteem, deep self-hatred, etc. In some cases, the consequences are even worse. For instance, the women who have experienced the violence of rape by their husband suffer from physical injuries, anger, and loss of interest in sex.

As per an analysis, many causes of marital rapes have been suggested. 78% respondents felt that the husbands’ behavior towards their wives was an attempt at portraying manliness. 14% respondents attributed the rape(s) as a cause of drinking habits. Others felt that it stems from some external triggering incidents.

As per another strategic analysis, one of the strongest differentiators between marital rape victims and non-victims was the presence of violence in their marriage. Some surveys state that the women who are unemployed, dependent on their husbands, have children, or do not have proper education suffer the most. Thus, the raping husbands are especially very dominant in their marital relationships. They are also more likely to have drinking problems and be sex addicts too.

Forced marriage and child marriage are prevalent in many parts of the world, especially in parts of Asia and Africa. A forced marriage is a marriage where one or both participants are married without their free consent. A child marriage is a marriage where one or both parties are younger than 18 years of age. Such marital unions are linked with higher rate of domestic violence, including marital rapes and assault. Such marriages are most common in conventional societies that have no laws against sexual violence in marriage, and where it is exceptionally troublesome to end a marriage. In case of such forced marriages, the marital union begins with the man's strong sense of control over the lady, combined a misbelief that the wife is her husband’s property. Unlike other forms of rape, wherein the victim can remove themselves from the company of the rapist and never interact with them again; in the case of marital rape, the victim often has no choice but to continue living with their spouse. In many parts of the world, divorce is very difficult to obtain and is also highly stigmatized.

Sadomasochism is also related to marital rapes, wherein the husbands enjoy inflicting physical or mental pain on their wives. A research shows such husbands tend to be jealous of the wife, while in reality, the person having extramarital affairs is the husband himself. As a result, they started raping their wives to seek revenge.

In 2002, studies confirmed that marital rapes are greater among unemployed men. In some cases, it is found that when a male child has seen his father doing wrong to his mother, the chances of emulating such behaviors in the future are higher. Thus, it reflects the mental pain and sufferings that make him weak and distressed.

Rape laws in India continue to consider women as the property of men post marriage, with no autonomy or consent over their bodies. Marital rapes hit around 106 countries. Out of these, 32 consider it as a special criminal offense and remaining 74 include it in a general rape provision. Even though many countries have taken progressive steps, India is one of the 36 countries where it is still not a criminal offense and untouched by the lawmakers of our country. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers forced sex in marriages as a crime only when the wife is below 15 years of age. Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offense under the IPC. Marital rape victims have to turn to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA). The PWDVA, which came into force in 2006, outlaws marital rape. However, it offers only a civil remedy for the offence. But this has to END, right?

Marital rape is much more painful than any other form of rape because you have to get up with the tears and wipe it off the other day!

You cannot wash it off 100% from our society. Rape or any crime is an individualistic matter, even if there are laws made against it to protect the victim and to punish the sinner.

First of all, we need to raise awareness. Both the spouses should be treated equally for the problem by seeking help from a psychologist or psychiatrist. Hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, or hypnodrama are some procedures wherein people can drain out their negative energies or thoughts.

Study the husbands and wives, their childhood… even the equation with their parents. These people play a critical role in building one’s self-esteem. Nowadays, it is important to make sex education compulsory.

Female education is a must. Employment and self-dependency should be given utmost importance.

Also, the society must be made aware about the marital rape so that, if any female faces it, they are driven to justice. Woman should not be forced to stay in marriages if they are tortured. Females should raise their voice against harassment and their families should support them.

Lastly, there should be stringent laws and punishment for the rapists. Marital rape should be considered as rape in Indian law.

We, as the people, can make some difference by undertaking necessary efforts to criminalize this awful act.