How can two different yardsticks tag what rape is- rape of a woman who is unmarried and rape of a woman married to the man who rapes her?
Marital rape, as defined by the Oxford English dictionary, is “the rape committed by the person to whom the victim is married.” The sad tale is that the idea of “consent” stands invalid and this form of domestic violence and sexual abuse is still not recognized as a crime in many parts of the world.
The year is 2017 and marital rape is still a legal concept in India. It’s shameful that the women of the country have the right to choose their own government but they don’t have the right to say no. Women have long been a victim to sexual violence in and outside home, and yet under the Indian Penal Code, marital rape has not been criminalized. The justification for marital rape not being declared a crime are the religious connotations of marriage as a sacred bond between man and his wife, the other factors being illiteracy, low level of education, poverty, social customs and beliefs, the mindset of the society to consider the marriage as a sacrament.
It is generally believed that women in India are 40% more likely to be subjected to rape from their husband than by a stranger. According to a 2013 survey, an estimated 27,515,391 women aged fifteen to forty-nine years went through sexual violence in India. Of this aforementioned number, 2,522,817 of those affected women were between the age groups of fifteen to nineteen years. This is the age group that experiences 24% of the rape cases in India. Although marital rape gets registered in the hospitals, they are rarely reported due to marital rape being excluded from the India Penal Code’s (IPC) definition of rape. Estimates are that only 1% of rapes are in fact reported.
Statistics do not narrate the entire tale. Numbers fail to report the terror and pain, both physical and mental, that a woman endures when forced to yield to the evils of the society.
While countries from Nepal to Great Britain to the United States of America have marked marital rape a crime, as shameful as it is, India still has no law to safeguard married females against marital rape.
India is one of the 36 nations that have not yet criminalized marital rape, a nation where marriage implies a default consent to hand over bodily rights to the husband, where talking about sex is a taboo, however, sexually abusing one’s wife perfectly conforms to the social ideals. These inadequacies make India a constant target in the eyes of the women’s rights advocates all around the globe.
Any form of sexual assault, marital or non-marital, is traumatic and reformation is the call of the hour. But the media at large and the socially influential film industry have so far turned a blind eye towards the issue at hand. Recently, certain people got rid of the blindfolds by rising to the bait to protest against marital rape. The movie “Lipstick Under My Burkha” drew much attention in the social media platforms by successfully highlighting the subject of marital rape. Although, rather, unfortunately, failed to bring about a wave of social and legal change.
India needs to learn about gender equality in a scenario where men are assaulting their wives with impunity and women are enduring the abuse under a blanket of silence. There is a need to understand that marital rape is no longer just a happening that should remain behind closed doors, it is a crime that the government along with every individual should recognize and report.