These days the Delhi High Court is hearing a petition for criminalizing marital rape. If it sounds Greek to you then let me explain it in simple terms for you.
This means that if you are a married man, your wife can accuse you of having forcible sex with her and ask for your punishment.
On the face of it, this petition sounds logical- no woman would want her body to be assaulted. No? Then why the fuss?
Let us now deep dive into this issue and make some sense of this noise.
Who are the petitioners?
The lead petitioners in the case related to criminalizing of marital rape are AIDWA, the RIT Foundation, and an NGO, Forum for Engagement of Men.These petitioners had filed their cases on August 30, this year, before a bench of Delhi Court, comprising Justices Gita Mittal and C. Harishankar. A fresh hearing will happen on September 4 this year.
In addition, there is a woman petitioner who claims she was sexually assaulted by her husband.
Reasons for criminalizing marital rape
These four petitioners argue that every woman has a right to her body. It does not matter whether she is married or not. If a married woman does not like having sex with her husband, then he cannot force himself upon her.
To us at Social Chumbak it makes sense.
The main logic behind their arguments is that forced sex with wives is against the Right to Privacy which is guaranteed by the Supreme Court in its recent judgment. Continuing further, they say that forced sex violates a wife’s right to bodily integrity, sexual autonomy, and reproductive choice.
Their second reason is that the current laws on marital rape discriminate against married women. While single women can approach a court and seek legal remedy (after getting raped), no such remedy is available to their married counterparts. Thus, according to petitioners, there is a clear cut case of partiality against married women.
In favor of their arguments, the petitioners also quoted a survey wherein 20% of the respondents said that they had committed sexual violence against their partners.
(We find this survey flawed and its methodology unscientific)
Lastly, Karuna Nandy, the counsel of AIDWA submitted to the court that marital rape should also be viewed from the perspective of patriarchal mindsets. In India, very often women are raped by men to reinforce their domination. Nandy further said that Justice Chandrachud in his judgment had categorically ruled that patriarchal mindsets cannot be allowed to come in the way of enforcement of the Right to Privacy.
Now let us look at the stand of the government.
No way says the Union Government
Not surprisingly, the Union Government has opposed this petition. Its lawyer, Monika Arora told the court that there are several reasons why this petition does not make sense.
One, there is no way to prove that a wife was indeed raped by her husband in the privacy of their bedroom. Only the wife can provide testimony in this case but would this ‘proof’ be lasting enough?
Secondly, and very importantly, criminalizing marital rape will result in the destabilization of the institution of marriage. There may be several cases where jealous relatives will encourage their female relatives to terrorize their husbands.
Thirdly, there is a real possibility of an anti-marital rape law being misused by people just like the Anti-Dowry Law.
Then there is another practical angle to the unviability of the anti-marital rape law. Investigators say that in most cases of alleged rape, the charges have been found to be untrue. So there is a real chance of marital rape cases proving untrue later on.
Feminists, on the other hand, dismiss the views of the government and point to the Western world where marital rape has been criminalized.
‘Why can’t we follow them ‘ is their logic.
Point taken but these feminists should also note that in the process, in those very societies, the concept of family has taken a bad knock. Society is in tatters and many political scientists, judges, political workers, and religious leaders are asking for the return of stable marriages and family values.
In my view criminalizing marital sex will lead to more harm than good. Our country is held together by marriages, families and other social bonds. While rape is bad and rapists must be punished, I feel that marital rape can be handled by existing laws. Western values of democracy and justice should be followed, but we as a society must also know what is good and bad for us. Feminists clamoring for anti-rape laws are plain dumb, in this case.