Marital Rape – An Oxymoron for Patriarchs

Daniel Fernandes in one of his stand-up comedy performances spoke on marital rape and how Indian men do not register that as a crime, “It’s not our fault that we did not know about marital rape because it is a confusing concept, especially for Indian men. Indian men understand marital rape the same way as Indian women understand the offside rule in football. In both the cases, it’s about a line that should not be crossed… The only benefit to marital rape (if you are looking for one) is that here you can’t blame it on Chowmein, mobile phone, Hrithik Roshan’s extra thumb. You know exactly where the fault lies, “That’s the rapist officer… the father of my kids, the man who promised to love me, take care of me and never hurt me. He raped me.” Daniel Fernandes makes a pertinent point of entitlement over a woman’s life and body that few men tend to demonstrate with impunity.

On October 11th 2017, the First Post published an article that quoted political influencers opposing criminalization of marital rape because it cannot be applied to the “Indian context”. They attributed sexual crimes against women in matrimonial setups, to complexities such as ‘varying levels of education, poverty, myriad social customs, value systems, religious beliefs and ‘mindset of the society’”. Many cultures and tribes in India marry the girl off before she attains the permissible age; hence all sexual crimes against her are registered under the POCSO Act (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act). For adult women, marital rape can be filed under the PWDVA Act (Protection of Women against Domestic Violence Act). Since intimate partner violence (of all kinds) is normalized in India; adult women who are victims do not internalize the violation and do not feel entitled for justice. The judicial process in this country is so expensive, time consuming and insensitive that individual women are not in the position to press charges against their husbands and then see the case through.

On March 12th 2016, the India Today reported that there are 36 countries in the world where there is no law for marital rape. The Women, Business and the Law (WBL, 2016) Report stated that there are 32 economies in the world in which married women cannot apply for a passport in the same way as married men, i.e. women face constraints on their legal capacity to act or ability to conduct transactions. Each action or transaction is examined separately for married and unmarried women. The consent of the man is considered sovereign and can influence the woman’s right. The WBL report also stated that 30 economies in the world do not give women the right to be the head of the household, 30 economies do not give women the right to choose where to live, 22 economies do not give citizenship to the children through women’s citizenship alone, 18 economies do not give employment to women without the consent of their husband, 17 economies do not give women the right to travel without a male escort, 10 economies do not give women their own national identity card, 4 economies do not give women to register their enterprise and 2 economies do not give women the right to open a bank account or to sign a contract (financial).