BJP Government recently said that it has no intentions of making marital rape (rape of wife by husband) a criminal offense because marriage in India is “sacred”. It is not some loony like Saskhi Maharaj making a passing reference at some random event, this is a Minister of State speaking in the Rajya Sabha in a written reply to a question raised by DMK MP Kanimozhi.

Government’s logic is that marriage in India is sacred, so concept of marital rape as understood internationally cannot be applied in India. According to the Minister, consideration has been given to “various factors — e.g. level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of society to treat marriage as a sacrament” to arrive at this conclusion.

We wonder what is this sacred marriage and how it would be destroyed if marital rape is recognized as a crime under Indian Penal Code.

  1. Sacred Indian marriage is one where a young women who have been always kept segregated from men and taught from childhood “good girls don’t talk to boys”, is suddenly given a glass of milk and pushed inside a room with a stranger who is allowed to rape her because he married her. She is advised, “go satisfy your husband, do whatever he asks from you, don’t make him angry”
  2. Sacred Indian marriage is one where society thinks that the wife is equal to a paid prostitute with whom the husband can have sex anytime he wants against her wish and she cannot complaint. It may be safely assumed that actual sex workers have more dignity and better agency, than such a wife in such a brilliantly sacred marriage.
  3. Sacred Indian marriage is one where a woman has no right over her own body, she has only two choices, either get raped or get beaten because statistics say, both men and women believe that it is okay for men to beat their wife if she refuses to have sex among other things.
  4. Sacred Indian marriage is one where the society thinks that the woman’s womb belongs to the Hindu rashtra which may be used as a factory to produce 10 Hindu male children. The female children being born in the process may simply be discarded as by products.

The definition can be even more elaborate but you got my point.

Whenever women ask for equal rights and respect society says ‘NO’, we must save the Indian family structure and the sacred sacrament of marriage. So it seems, this great family structure is standing upon women oppression and miseries. The valuable pillars on which Indian family structure stands are: dowry, domestic violence, marital rape, female feoticide, murder of women’s dreams and desire and a complete denial of her rights to break away from such a marriage. If a woman wants to end her marriages she is immediately ostracized by the society as a bad woman and bad influence on others. This fear of divorce taboo makes women suffer domestic violence and marital rape in silence.

If all women understood and sought their rights, dignity and equality and if the system didn’t deny them these, then the so called sacred family structure‬ will wither away in no time because essentially family system is built upon unfair sexual division of labour, and gender and age hierarchy. Legally, the family is always consisting of a man, ‘his’ wife and ‘his’ children. Age usually trumps gender as in adult male member is more powerful and has better decision making authority than older female member. So after the death of the father, eldest son becomes the head of family, not the mother.

They say it is difficult to prove marital rape and that’s why it cannot be criminalized. Conspiracy theories (that marital rape is a conspiracy by ‘Feminazis’) and myth of ‘misuse’ looms large. The thing is, all rapes are difficult to prove. Marital rape is not any extra difficult to prove and therefore it is not a valid reason to not call it a crime

How are rapes proved? Facts and circumstances are gathered, medical is done where doctors look for signs of struggle, bruises around private parts, proof of penetration etc. Now it is well established that if a woman stopped struggling and gave in due to fear of being killed or assaulted it is still a rape even though struggle marks cannot be found. In case woman is drugged or sleeping or in coma that too is rape even though no physical violence or bruises are present. All these cases are difficult to prove and that’s why so many rapists go scot free. Why should marital rape be treated differently on the ground that it is difficult to prove?

Some argue that sexual violence already fall under Domestic Violence Act then what is the need to have another law? Nobody asked government to make new law, the need is to merely amend Section 375 (that defines rape) and remove the exception which says, “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.” Sexual violence under DV Act is not the same as Rape under IPC. A rape is a rape and the perpetrator should be tried as rape accused irrespective of his marital relationship with the victim.

A bunch of misogynist men calling themselves men’s rights activists make a lot of noise about women misusing Section 498A (dowry law) and victimizing innocent husbands. My question to them is why do they want to whine and complaint about harassment and shake the sacred marriage and family system? Since marriage is sacred, wives should be allowed to file false dowry cases and drag husbands to police station and husband must suffer in silence. Because if sacred marriage means wives cannot complaint against husband, even if raped, why should husband complain if falsely charged?