Yes, you read it right “The Rapist Better Halves”. ‘Better half’ a simple word used by people to describe their life partner or in simpler terms to the person they are married to. Now the question that arises here is that how can the word ‘rapist’ be relevant here.
The Indian society describes marriage as the ‘spiritual union of a man and a woman for a spiritual realization’. During marriage the man and the woman exchange vows of loyalty, faithfulness and most importantly trust. But what I feel is that it is more like barter system, exchange of vows for physical relation. According to most of the men in our country, the wife must be ready for a sexual intercourse whenever the husband is in a ‘mood’. They leave no choice for their wives, they are treated as their husbands property.
Let us know what exactly is Marital Rape. It is an act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the spouse or also when the spouse is not in her stable state of mind due to intoxication or sleep. The lack of consent is an important element and need not involve physical violence. It is a form of physical and sexual abuse. It is regarded as crime only when the couple is divorced and living separately.
Tell me one thing ‘Is marriage a license for rape?’
HOW DOES THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION DEFINE RAPE AND MARITAL RAPE?
Our Indian Constitution defines rape under Section 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code. It is defined as “non-consensual penetration of an orifice in a woman by a man” or “non-consensual touching of an orifice with the mouth. This is not restricted to having sex. Forcing women to do this to herself or with someone else is also rape.”
Our system does not consider Marital Rape as a crime. They only thing that they say is ‘how can a husband rape his wife?’, ‘if they are already married how can it be regarded as rape?’ But what they forget is the most important thing the matter of ‘consent’. Why shouldn’t a wife have the right to say ‘no’ to sex? If we consider domestic violence as a crime then why not sexual violence? Why have women always been regarded as the property of men?
SITUATION IN THE INDIAN SOCIETY
The problem of marital rape is wide spread in the masses of our country. A country where we regard the females as Goddess but forget to give them the respect they deserve as a human being. There have been instances where the husband comes home drunk and demands to have a sexual intercourse, if the wife refuses she is she is first beaten up and then sexually abused. Another example is where a 18 year old girl is forced to have sexual relation since the very first day of her marriage with unknown man. The even worst cases are that of child marriage where the husband does not know the fact that what he is doing is wrong and should not be done. Imagine a person whom you trust with your life and dignity forcing you for a physical relation. When such instances occur the women are not only physically and sexually abused but also mentally. They enter a traumatic and helpless state.
When we see houses at distant during night with lights glowing inside it, we hardly know the dark reality of some of those houses. Thousands of cases and PILs have been filed the different courts, High courts and Supreme courts in order to make laws on marital rape. The sad part is these cases and PILs do not even get a date for hearing. They are kept somewhere among piles of cases in courts.
There are only 36 nations in the world which have still not criminalized marital rape. It is a shame that India is one among such nations. Its high time that the Indian Judiciary makes strict laws for marital rape and save the victimized women.
THE PIL BY RIT FOUNDATION
Among a plethora of PILs filed, there was one filed by the NGO RIT Foundation and All India Democratic Woman Association where the decision taken by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and C Hari Shankar was that section 375 of the Indian Penal Code will criminalize marital rape only till the wife is 15 years of age. There was no provision for women above the age of 15 years. This was however in contradiction with the child protection laws where the legal age for marriage is 18 years for women. However, no action was taken. During this hearing the submission of NGO Men Welfare Trust was that there are already many laws for protection women like that for domestic violence and now these laws are being misused so there should not be any more laws. And that now the husbands are being victimized. This was disagreed by the bench. If we go by such an statement then most of the laws are being misused, the laws for the crime of murder are also misused, does this mean we should not have any laws for people who commit murder! What an irony!
In a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India, Independent Thought v. Union of India, it was decided that the for the girls below the age of 18 years the husband could be held for rape. But it was also said not to relate it with the issue of marital rape above the age of 18 years i.e. for adult woman.
In 2019 MP Shashi Tharoor moved a private members bill in the Parliament in order to criminalize marital rape. This bill was opposed in the Parliament saying ‘it would destabilize the institution of marriage’.
THE WORSENING SITUATION DUE TO LOCKDOWN
At present the nation is in lockdown due to the pandemic of corona virus. At such times we feel that our homes are the safest place on Earth but we forget that due to this there are many women who are locked behind the doors of their house with their perpetrators helplessly.
SURVEY BY THE DENTSU IMPACT
When the whole world was celebrating Mother’s Day this year in May there were millions of women the world who were becoming mothers by force and not love. The Dentsu Impact and My Choices Foundation launched a campaign ‘Mothers Without A Choice’. In this campaign they aimed to do surveys and raise awareness about those women who are locked with their abusers during the lockdown are victims of domestic abuse and marital rape and are forced to become mothers. They released a video on the internet to create awareness. In this video the victims do not utter a single word but the expression on their faces and the background sound effects will give you chills down your spine and leave you heartbroken by the look of agonizing pain and the feeling of disgust for such acts. They informed that there are around 7 million unwanted pregnancies due to lockdown. The children born due to the force to become mothers will be brought up in unhappy household. The pain of an unhappy women seeing a part of them being grown unhappy is beyond imagination. They tried to provide such woman with the national toll-free numbers which might be of some help to them. This was their attempt to help them in getting a new and better life.
EFFORTS OF THE FILM INDUSTRY
The Telugu film industry is releasing a web series titled ‘SIN’ which will also puts forward the problem of marital rape. The actress of this web series Deepti Sati in an interview says that at certain points her character is not even able to express her agony with words and so everything is expressed by eyes. This is what happens in real life as well.
NEED TO RAISE AWARENESS
The saddest part is most of the people don’t even know that there is something like “Marital Rape”. Women are unaware of their rights and men are unaware that what they are doing is a crime. There is need to highlight this issue all over the country and discuss the seriousness of the crime.
When the cases of marital rape are reported the police tends to ignore it and asks the woman to adjust and do not file a FIR or search or evidences. Women facing this issue are so scared of the society that even when they talk about it they do not reveal their real names or addresses. Due to such reasons it is really difficult to form a statistical data for marital rape cases.
I would like to conclude this article by saying that on contrary to what many like to believe, the law that protects husbands who rape their wives is not a part of “Indian Culture”. Husband being victimized is not an excuse. Marriage does not mean women giving up the right to their body. In order to protect the sacrosanct nature of marriage, there should be a law to protect all the married women irrespective of their age or religion from the grave crime of marital rape. This will keep up the dignity of women and save the evil “better halves”.
- Readers Blog
Author: Samya Dwvedi,
IFIM Law School Bangalore,1st year