Married Indian Men Now Have The Official License To Rape Their Wives
One of the most frequently asked questions I deal with daily is, “Oh, you are from India? Tell me something – what is with all the rapes happening in your country?”
Honestly, as a layperson, I don’t understand it either. As a journalist, I have had to repeatedly write about the same issues regarding my native country – and rape tops the list. Yes, we have a serious problem here, yet the answers don’t come easy. Over the years, I have spoken to countless people about this – activists, lawyers, survivors – and it always boils down to one thing: not many men in India give a damn about women. Raised in the famous School of Indian Patriarchy, they don’t even consider women as equals.
One wants to scream, “Why? What is wrong with these men?” These men have been raised by women who treated their sons as the princes and their daughters as second-class citizens.
The gory statistics continue to be an ugly blot on India’s image: a country that otherwise prides itself on its culture and tradition yet also reports high rates of female feticide, child marriage, dowry deaths, honor killings and of course, rape.
Rape is rape. It is as simple as that – or so one would think. But, not for the Indian government that keeps coming up with ridiculous excuses to NOT criminalize marital rape. Earlier this month an affidavit was filed in the Indian Supreme Court to this effect. One of the arguments is that in doing so it will “destabilize the institution of marriage, apart from being an easy tool for harassing husbands.” Politicians have also come up with arguments that ‘the concept of marital rape cannot be applied in the Indian context.’
The Institution of Marriage
Let’s take a closer look at this so-called “institution of marriage”, and delve deeper into the dark side of the big, fat Indian wedding. If by some luck a girl manages to grow into womanhood with her honor intact and she can be passed on to a man in a wedding, then her husband now officially owns her. So, it is up to him to decide what he does with his newly acquired property.
You, dear reader, must think that I come from a different age and time. The disturbing fact is that far-right extremists in India have taken it upon themselves to push the ‘Hindutva’ (The Hindu Nationalist Movement) traditions and culture in India. One strand of these traditions is pushing women to conform to the traditional role of silent home-maker, serving and catering to the whims and fancies of their husbands. In such a marriage, there is no space for a concept called ‘rape’. It is a debate that has been raging long in the country;–and I’ve written before that it is question of consent, and NOT culture.
The rise of Saffron Power and the fall of women’s rights
When India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, there was much apprehension. One of the biggest fears was the rollback of local women’s rights, , which has now come into full force as Hindu rights organizations gain increasing control in the country. They propagate a regressive mindset, and shun all things ‘modern’ and ‘western.’ So, it comes as no surprise when politicians from right-wing parties make statements that the concept of marital rape cannot be applied in the Indian context.
A deeply patriarchal Hindu mindset is taking over the country that openly promotes the oppression of women. To advocate their ideology, the Hindutva brigade now uses women known as sadhvis (virtuous women who have renounced their possessions and have chosen to lead a spiritual life). These are not your typical God-fearing women who are the picture of calm and propagate love an acceptance. We are talking about ‘hate-spewing’ women leaders who stoke violence, and reinforce traditional gender roles. They insist that they are helping build a Hindu Rashtra (a Hindu nation), which means advocating that Hindu women have more children to preserve Hindu pride. They also advocate against “westernization”, which means women should not insist on having a career. Their ultimate goal should be motherhood and serving men. This video on YouTube shows one such training session where young girls are being educated on what it takes to be a good Hindu woman.
Under these circumstances, all the pleas of feminist organizations campaigning for women’s rights seem to be falling on deaf ears, and the country that is already infamous for making headlines about rapes is headed towards a grim future. And the government’s recent refusal to criminalize marital rape is just the tip of the iceberg.
Author: Roma Rajpal
Editor: Brenda Haas
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are entirely the author’s own.
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. (From June 6, 2015)
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. (From March 24, 2016)
Chantal Barlow is the initiator of Unconventional Apology Project. It’s about the powerful women who speak out against domestic violence. Read our interview with Chantal and find out what moved her to set up her unusual project. (From March 21, 2017)
Date05.10.2017 | 12:09