India does a U-turn and still fails to criminalize marital rape
A recent statement, Maneka Gandhi, India’s Women and Child Development Minister, says that marital rape cannot be applied to the Indian context. Her comments have raised many disturbing questions.
Gandhi wrote “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, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc.”
No right to say NO
A married woman cannot “no” to her husband. Indian law does not give her the chance to fight the abuse she is subjected to because her husband doesn’t need her consent anyway. He can force himself on his wife as he pleases because both Indian culture and Indian law allow this abusive behavior.
Should the woman persist with her adamant behavior of saying “no”, the husband has the right to file a case of cruelty against his wife for denying him his conjugal rights. The woman can file a case of domestic violence and get a divorce. But the husband still gets away scot-free.
A question of consent not culture
Gandhi’s statement has put the debate on criminalizing marital rape is back in the primetime. A year back the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Partibhai Chaudhary, made the exact same statement, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs, and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society, to treat marriage as sacrosanct.”
What shocks me most is the fact that this topic still continues to be debated. Indian culture cannot be used as an excuse because it is precisely this patriarchal culture that needs to be questioned. This culture that puts all the responsibility of holding the family together on the woman even if she has to suffer in silence for it. What good is a marriage where the woman manages to keep her family together but is abused in her own four walls?
Isn’t it time to question these ‘regressive social customs’ ? Isn’t it time that the law starts protecting illiterate, poor women who are abused on a daily basis and have no awareness of their rights? Isn’t it time to educate illiterate men about the fact that they cannot treat their wives as lesser beings? And since when is rape only a poor man’s crime?
Rape is rape
It makes no difference whether a rape has been committed by an illiterate, poor man or a literate, rich man. Accepting rape or turning a blind eye to abuse is not a part of any culture. And while marriage is a sacred institution, there is nothing sacred about a marriage where a man inflicts abuse on his wife. By criminalizing rape, the Indian government will pave the way for a social change. And this change is urgently needed to change the mindset of Indian society.
Author: Roma Rajpal-Weiß
Editor: Marjory Linardy
Roma Rajpal Weiß is an Indian Journalist and Blogger based in Bonn and can be followed @romarajpal.
It’s official! Under Indian law, marital rape cannot be classified as a crime. A 31-member committee including two female members took the Anti-Rape bill to Parliament. The topic sex continues to remain a taboo in India. Across all classes and religions, if there is one topic that many religious leaders in India can agree upon, it is the fact that sex is not supposed to be an act of pleasure. (From June 6, 2015)
A UNICEF report claims 70% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 16. In comparison, according to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children 2009″ report, 47% of India’s women are married before the legal age of 18; and in Bangladesh 63%. In Nepal 68.3% are married before the age of 15. (From January 8, 2015)
Last week, an interesting post was doing the rounds in social media: 26 questions people from India are sick of answering. In the years I have been living abroad, I have been confronted with these questions over and over again. Do you speak ‘Hindu?’ Which caste do you belong to? But you actually pray to cows right? (From December 13, 2013)
Date24.03.2016 | 15:33
Tagsdomestic violence, Education, empowering women, girls' rights, illiteracy, India, India’s Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi, marital rape, poverty, Roma Rajpal Weiß, women's rights