Over the years, the patriarchy has dominated women in various ways not allowing them to exercise many rights, thus almost preventing them from having the most basic of human rights. This act of dominating women has taken a terrifying turn wherein certain rules laid down by the authoritative bodies prevent women from taking action against acts which sabotage their dignity and often leave a scar on their mental health for a prolonged period. Not being able to voice their situations has led to women coming from the weaker sections to submit to the acts against them. Despite several protests to withdraw rules that prevent women from seeking justice for acts that are unsympathetic towards them, no action by any of the authoritative bodies have taken place.
One of the most controversial topics surrounding the denial of specific rights to women, rests in the decriminalization of marital rape in India. Marital rape is the act of the husband forcing his wife into having sex without their consent. Several arguments for the decriminalization of marital rape include the description of the Hindu Marriage Act which states that marriage is the union of one body and one soul, hence a husband forcing sex on his wife will not amount to marital rape. The question arises that- Does getting married give full right of the woman’s body to her husband? The answer is ‘NO’, under all circumstances as a woman being forced into sex is not providing consent, thus there arises the absence of free consent. Legislators have stated that if one has intercourse with their own wife, then whether the intercourse is consensual or not shall not be considered. Many attempts and protests have taken place in order to criminalize marital rape, but in vain. Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code states that if a girl who is not under 15 years of age is forced into intercourse with her husband, that shall not be considered as rape.
Several stringent legislations are being passed pertaining to rape, especially after the Delhi gang rape issue, offering even death penalty to assaulters in extreme cases. However, no legislations offering a palliative to women, victims to marital rape have been passed yet. Marital rape is a common scenario in rural areas where marriage is considered a sacrament and women become ‘properties’ of their husbands after the marriage. The brides in the rural areas are mostly underage and too young to completely understand the notion of sex, thus getting forced into intercourse whilst fighting extreme discomfort and displeasure. Weddings in the rural areas, as well as in modern society take place between two individuals who have not been acquainted with each other before. In several cases the bride is unwilling to engage in sexual intercourse with her husband due to her personal discomfort, but her uneasiness is ignored and thus violated.
After numerous requests for amendments and protests against this legislation, the question regarding the need for criminalization of marital rape still arises. Marital rape, not only violates a woman’s dignity, but mostly her mental and physical health for the rest of her life. A woman is subjected to violence where she is left with bruises all over her body, and in many cases it has been recorded that the sexual health of women is also affected which causes harm to the well-being of the woman for the rest of her life. Victims of marital rape end up suffering from severe depression, anxiety and constant fear regarding her peers around her.
Marital rape, not being a crime, enables the assaulter to repeat their act thus violating the mental and physical health of an individual repeatedly. The victims not being able to report against the act are overshadowed by their assaulter, and have to come in terms with the terrifying fact that they have to spend the rest of their lives with an individual who went against their will and discomfort and scarred them for a lifetime. The victims not being able to attain the justice they deserve, are forced to suffer in their own silence.
The topic of marital rape has sparked many protests to free the victims from households where they have been trapped for a prolonged period, and have been forced to succumb to their fate.
Marital rape, in a layman’s language, is rape. Forcing an individual into intercourse, without their consent by a person, be it their husband to whom they are legally and ‘religiously’ bound to, or anyone else, is a violation of that individual’s basic human rights. Domestic violence is a crime in India and the assaulters are punished when reported against, and in the similar fashion, marital rape also includes the assault of an individual, and the assaulters must be punished. Marriage does not give a man the right to a woman’s body and the sexual abuse of married women by their own husbands cannot be ignored. Without a doubt, passing of strong legislative orders against such abuse is essential and the existing controversy surrounding marital rape can be brought to an immediate halt with the recognizing of marital rape under rape, and not as a license provided to the husbands to hamper the health the well-being of their wives. The authoritative bodies must recognize the pleas of victims and provide them with sufficient justice.
Amity Law School, Kolkatta