Marital rape – Need to be criminalised?

Criminalise marital rape: UNDP chief

  • Recently Minister for Women and Child Welfare Maneka Gandhi submitted in Parliament that the government wouldn’t criminalise “marital rape,”. She said that the “concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be applied in the Indian context due to level of education/illiteracy, poverty, customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc..”
  • UNDP chief Helen Clark that the issue is one of consent, not culture. She suggested that India would be violating the Sustainable Development Goals it has adopted if it did not amend the law accordingly.She was in Delhi to attend the IMF ‘Advancing Asia’ conference
  • Ms. Clark made a significant pitch for all countries that had not made domestic abuse and marital rape criminal offences to do so at the earliest.
  • Her words are particularly significant not just because the United Nations Development Programme is monitoring the implementation of the SDGs by 2030, but because Ms. Clark is widely considered to be preparing to run for U.N. Secretary-General later this year.

Marital rape

  • Marital Rape refers to unwanted intercourse by a man with his wife obtained by force, threat of force, or physical violence, or when she is unable to give consent.

Legal provisionsimages

  • Section 375 of the IPC criminalises forced sexual intercourse or rape. But exception 2 of Section 375 of the IPC says any form of intercourse by a man with his wife, who is not under 15 years of age, is not rape
  • Section 376 of IPC provides punishment for rape. This section in dealing with sexual assault, in a very narrow purview lays down that, an offence of rape within marital bonds stands only if the wife be less than 12 years of age, if she be between 12 to 16 years, an offence is committed, however, less serious, attracting milder punishment.

Arguments to criminalise marital rape

  • The UN Population Fund states that more than 2/3rds of married women in India, aged between 15 to 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex.
  • In the present day, studies indicate that between 10 and 14% of married women are raped by their husbands
  • Section 375 of IPC which criminalises rape provides no protection for married women. Once, the age crosses 16, there is no legal protection accorded to the wife, in direct contravention of human rights regulations.
  • Further the same law provides for the legal age of consent for marriage to be 18 while protecting form sexual abuse, only those up to the age of 16
  • The 172nd Law Commission report  and Justice Verma committee also recommended for criminalising marital rape
  • A recent report submitted by amicus curiae Indira Jaising to the Supreme Court had called for criminalising the offence. The report had recommended that , must be done away with.

For further reading on marital rape read the following articles

Marital Rape and the Indian legal scenario

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