“It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty”- says Maneka Gandhi. Our honourable minister said, if the rapist is someone the victim knows personally, it cannot be considered rape. Marriage, a relation bound in love, the very fabric of our society, is now reduced to a thing to legally channelise sexual frustration and even the legal machinery now fails to uphold the dignity of a person if he/she is married.
THE CONTEXT OF RELIGION AND SANSKAAR- EVEN THE LAW SAYS SO!
Sex outside marriage becomes adultery according to every religious text. And now, when a man and woman is married, how can it be rape? After all, a husband is entitled to sexual pleasure from his wife (ironically). Our religious texts put women on a pedestal, call them devis while a good wife is advised to consider her husband equivalent to God, pati is parameshwar and whatever he wishes, he gets. Is this the cultural context in which we cannot criminalise marital rape?
Exception 2 in Section 375 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) “sanctions sexual intercourse, even if forced, between a married couple, if the wife is over 15 years of age”. Does that mean, that a woman is not entitled to choice once she says ‘yes’ to a man, be it her husband or boyfriend?
Marital rape is a criminal offence in 104 countries. Our minister said that, in the current circumstance, if the rapist happens to be someone whom the woman knows, it cannot be considered a rape. In that case, many of the rape cases in our nations would become invalid. Because in most of the rape cases, the culprits would be close family members or friends. When a woman tries to file a complaint on molestation or abuse, the first question asked would be if she knows the accused personally. Does that make it her fault?
THE ATTITUDE OF THE AUTHORITY
Maneka Gandhi, an animal rights and women’s rights activist, has made erroneous statements like this before. But before somebody makes a conclusion that it is an article against some political party, let me say, it is not just about Maneka Gandhi. Up till recently, our legal machinery often suggested the rapist to marry the woman he raped. Even when media reports something as grave as rape, the focus often shifts to the victim, making her a taboo, while the rapist is forgiven and forgotten. We have had many politicians and celebrities making such statements, blaming things ranging from women to chowmien for rape.When educated and powerful people like the Minister for For Child And Women Development makes statements like these, how could we expect lay people to have a clear and educated attitude regarding rape?
There is no difference between marital rape and rape. Marriage is celebrated as a sacrament and a union of two souls. When somebody who promises to love you, take care of you becomes your rapist- will it not be even more traumatic than a case where the victim does not know the rapist? Marriage is not the licence to have sex and none of the religious and cultural texts say so. Marriage does not make someone your property. Maneka Gandhi’s statement is a reflection, how much the society is confused about the concept of marriage. Let us correct our attitudes and realise that rape is wrong- marital or not. Think beyond legality, sexual abuse and rape in a relationship is ethically wrong and it would have traumatic effects with scars hard to heal.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.