“The government on Monday justified its decision not to include marital rape as a sexual offence in the Criminal Law Amendment Ordinance, 2013, saying that this could weaken the institution of marriage…” [ Link ]
Why is it felt that allowing rapes within marriages strengthens the Institution of Marriage?
Then, what kind of marriages do marital rapes strengthen? And what kind of Institution is Marriage seen as?
Why do we need to protect and strengthen any Institution in ways that it puts innocent citizens at risk of being sexually assaulted?
Who benefits from an institution that is weakened without sexual assaults being permitted within it?
Why is there so much hesitation in understanding or acknowledging that women (just like everybody else) own their bodies; and that sex without consent is rape, no matter who does it?
It seems, once a man is married to a woman, even if she is legally separated from him, his sexual assault on her is seen as a lesser crime. How is this justified?
Here’s probably why raping a legally separated wife is seen as a lesser crime than raping other relatives, colleagues or neighbours:
1. Maybe it is felt that sexual crimes are assaults on a victim’s honor and not on the person; so if the rapist was once married to the woman, she can’t be ‘dishonoured’ by him. Same logic makes marital rapes impossible. If rapes are dishonour, how can a husband (Pati Parmeshwar) sexually assaulting a wife be seen as ‘dishonouring’ her?
2. Also, many Indians believe when an man marries a woman, he is entitled to Dowry, Male children, Sex on demand and an obedient care giver for his parents. Once an Indian woman is married to a man, consent is seen as given. Some commenters wondered why any man would ‘marry and maintain a wife’ at all if he needs to seek consent for sex from his own wife. [This doesn’t help: link, link.]
(This was one of the points raised during the walk organised for The One Billion Rising event in Gurgaon. I wonder if those listening were astonished to hear women convey that only Yes meant Yes.)
These are some concerns expressed by TOI commenters and many others, about criminalising Marital Rapes:
#How will such assaults be proven?
If a crime is difficult to prove should we refuse to acknowledge it? Does legalising a crime make the victims safer? The same logic can be used for Domestic Violence, and verbal abuse.
#What should be the punishment if the husband is convicted of sexually assaulting his wife? Shouldn’t the wife simply divorce such a man?
The punishment should perhaps be same no matter who commits the crime? What do you think?
Consider this: In Saudi Arabia, a man raping, torturing and killing his own wife or child is taken less seriously than a man killing another man’s wife or child. It is believed that the crime is against the man (and his honor) [link]. The basic idea is the same: That some people have unlimited rights on some other people, or that some people own some other people.
#And who will benefit from criminalising sexual assaults within marriages and making Marital Rapes a criminal offence?
All these young women and children married to their rapists are amongst those who would benefit. It was understood and accepted in all these cases (and by many TOI commenters, Khaps, many Indian women and men) that husbands have a right to rape their wives. [Remember many Indians think rape and ‘sex outside marriage’ are the same link, link, link,link].
1. I have blogged about my maid who had run away from her marital home and then threatened to hang herself before her parents allowed her to stay back, she said her husband raped her brutally. [When life ends at twelve.] No attempts to report or seek justice, no action against husband.
2. Another domestic helper used to beg her mother in law to protect her from her much older husband, and years later used to wish he would die because there was no other way she felt she could be free from his sexual assaults. [The Life And Times Of Another Indian Homemaker.] No attempts to report or seek justice, no action against husband.
3. Another woman in Haryana was not only raped by her husband but the rapes were so brutal that it was feared that she may never conceive (a big concern in her second marriage, where she is still happy because, ‘atleast they give me food’) [Link] No attempts to report or seek justice, no action against rapist/husband.
4. Here’s another account from “The women who have to sleep with their husbands’ brothers: Shortage of girls forces families into wife-sharing” [Link]
‘They took me whenever they wanted – day or night. When I resisted, they beat me with anything at hand,’ … Munni, who has three sons from her husband and his brothers, has not filed a police complaint either. [‘Four kinds of marriages in modern India. Which ones would you ban?]
7. I recently met a middle class, educated woman, now working and separated from her differently abled husband. She said they had no real communication, affection, or any relationship but she had to ensure the husband was ‘happy and satisfied’ (sexually). She said, the in laws were wealthy and did not ask for dowry, they just wanted to ensure that their son had a sexual partner and care giver. Although the woman is separated now, she did not even consider reporting or seeking justice, or taking action against the rapist husband. She is just glad to be safe from his assaults and legally (and socially) he had committed no wrong.
I think it is also felt that ‘getting a man a wife’ ensures he does not rape other women.
Please do hear what Kavita Krishnan has to say.
Demand that Parliament Enact a Law Against Sexual Violence Based on Justice Verma recommendations! No to Eyewash Ordinance!
Do also read,
Justice Verma Committee Proposes A Bills Of Rights For Women, National Legal Research Desk