When Rakhi (name changed) decided to step out of her house, refusing her errant husband’s repeated attempts of forced sexual intercourse, she had no idea of the callous attitude that her own family and the society would throw at her.
India, a country that still rests on the notions of marriage being the most important and sacred phase of life, plainly refuses to look at marital rape as a criminal offence.
As per United Nations Population Fund report, about 75% Indian married women are bearing the brunt of this flaw in the ancient law, breaching the rights of women in this country. Also, 25% of the calls received on women helplines to report domestic violence are linked to sexual violence.
National Family Health Survey (NFHS) through its research which was conducted in eight Indian states, came out with a fact that the major number of sexual violence cases reported by women were within the marriages. About a third of 9,205 men interviewed under this research, admitted to have forced sexual acts on their partners.
The debate around this issue was sparked when DMK MP Kanimozhi during a session raised a question to the government over the recommendation of UN Committee on elimination of discrimination of women to criminalise marital rape in India. Responding to this, Minister of State for home, Haribhai Parathi bhai Chaudhary commented on marital rape being an inappropriate concept in the Indian scenario due to factors like education, illiteracy, poverty, social customs, values, religious beliefs, mindset of society etc.
The minister of course is facing a backlash on social media and the netizens are questioning the government on their seriousness about the safety of women.
Making the families and societies understand the gravity of marital rape and how it is violating the rights of a woman is an uphill task. Due to the lack of any legal reform, women refrain from even reporting the crime as the insensitivity shown towards dealing with such cases is totally in-human. Along with this, the callous behavior of the families and the societies towards the issue. The Justice Verma Committee recommended to criminalize marital rape in India in 2012 but the suggestion was smoothly ignored. It’s high time that the government brings the issue in public discourse and addresses it with apt legal revisions.
“The minister’s remarks over marriage being a sacrosanct institution, clearly reflects that he is far away from the reality. Women today are facing a lot of coercion and sexual exploitation in marriages. And there is no guarantee of her control over her own body as marriages are considered to be a total surrender and subordination of women to her husband and family. I am surprised that the minister has declared his own wisdom without conducting any research or studies. He owes an explanation for making such an irrational anti-women argument.” Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research
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