In India, 40 percent of women are more likely to be raped by their husbands than by a stranger. In a patriarchal society such as ours, women are still the inferior gender which in turn made men create our goddess-worshipping society into a chauvinistic one.
Marital rape refers to sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, where they are legally married and the woman does not consent to said intercourse. As sad as it is, section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) considers forced sex in marriages as a crime only when the wife is below age 15. Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offense under the IPC. Marital rape victims have to take recourse to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 (PWDVA).
As many as 83 percent of married women in India between the ages of 15 and 49 have accused their husbands of sexual violence while 7 percent have called the former husband a perpetrator, according to the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey.
The NFHS-4 reported that 4 percent of the women were forced into sexual intercourse by the husband when the wife did not want to, 2.1 percent were forced to perform sexual acts they did not want to, and 3 percent were threatened to make them perform sexual acts that they did not wish to perform.
Any form of sexual violence perpetrated by a spouse is called marital rape. In 2017, the Better India reported India as being among 36 countries where marital rape is not a criminal offence.
In 2014, Ashish Gupta of the Rice Institute, a non-profit organisation, reported that the number of women, who have experienced sexual violence by their husbands, is 40 times the number of women experiencing sexual violence by non-intimate partners.
In 2017, The DailyO reported a 2014 study by the International Centre for Research on Women and the United Nations Population Fund on 9,500 respondents in seven states of India. The report said that 17 percent of the women reported sexual violence from husbands while 31 percent (one in every three) of men admitted that they had committed sexual violence against their wives.
And these are just statistics, let’s talk about the mentality of such predators.
Dr. Ratna Purwar, a gynecologist in Lucknow, said that often when women complained about forced sex there had been no such injuries that could prove rape. However, issues like swelling, itching, or maybe bleeding sometimes happen but in such cases, wives did not agree to report these injuries. She added that often when husbands were asked to refrain from forced sex, their response was, “Why did I marry her then?”
Dr. Purwar said women in India tolerated their husbands because of their financial dependence on them and it had become normal in their daily life despite the mental trauma affecting their health.
Dr. Veena Shrivastav, a retired gynecologist in Lucknow, said that during her training days Rajasthan was a hotspot for marital rapes. Even the brother-in-law or father-in-law would rape the married woman or widow of their brother or son.
In another example, Dr. Shrivastav talked of her experience with a young couple in Mathura where the husband would not take into account the situation or consent of the wife and had forced sex with her three or four times a day. “Marriages in India have a concept of ‘implied consent’ to sex and therefore, either happily or sadly women comply with it and do not report it,” she added.
Marital Rape has more severe and long-lasting consequences for women because of the simple fact that the rapist is none other than her husband with whom she had expected to spend a lifetime of happiness. There are 2 categories:
- Physical effects- The physical effects of Marital Rape include injuries to private organs, bruises, torn muscles, lacerations, fatigue, fractures, etc. Women who are subjected to physical violence, as well as rape, suffer from other complications like blackened eyes, broken bones, and wounds inflicted by any sort of weapon, during sexual violence.
Women also go through some problems due to marital Rape like miscarriages, infections, infertility, and also the chances of diseases like HIV, etc.
- Psychological effects- The trauma a woman goes through when her husband repeatedly rapes her cannot be explained in words. The psychological effects are far worse than the physical effects. Some of the short-term psychological effects are shock, fear, stress, suicidal tendencies, etc.
Article 21 of the Indian constitution states “Protection of life and personal liberty”. The article includes the right to live with personal liberty and dignity but if a female is forcefully asked to have sexual intercourse with her husband then the validity of her right to exercise her personal liberty is questionable and her dignity is affected. An exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code violates this right given to all females.
In the current scenario marital Rape can be only seen as rape which is legally permissible that negates the element of consent from the woman. It is high time that the judicial system in India makes laws criminalizing marital Rape to preserve the dignity of the woman.
Legal Service India said there were two reasons against the criminalization of marital rape. First, marriage was sacred and the criminalization of such an act would lead to the destabilization of society.
Secondly, there was the fear of a huge number of fraudulent cases being filed against husbands. To prove it medically is another loophole that has helped the perpetrators to continue to molest their wives and get away with the crime.
Feminists and women’s rights groups have long demanded criminalising marital rape. But, unlike domestic violence, and the various other aspects of rape, marital rape is yet to be a part of mainstream discourse – discussed in hushed tones and soon forgotten.
This post has been written by Mehek Sandhu, IIIrd year