When the central government recently told the Delhi High Court that they couldn’t criminalise marital rape because it would destabilise the institution of marriage, Twitter had some of the most apt responses.
In its argument, the government further stated that such a move would not only become a tool with which husbands could be harassed, it said that it is also difficult to prove rape in a scenario like this.
However, data shows that more women have been sexually abused by their husbands than other men.
The Huffington Post analysed the findings of the National Family Health Survey 2005-06 and found that 66 out of every 1,000 women experienced sexual violence perpetrated by their husbands. In comparison, only 1.6 out of 1,000 women had experienced sexual violence by men they were not married to.
The government added that marital rape cannot be criminalized because “illiteracy, lack of financial empowerment of majority of females, mindset of the society, vast diversity in the cultures of states which implement criminal law, and poverty etc.” were problems that we need to address.
While many have supported the government’s stand , others have used this as an opportunity to make an important point about consent even within the framework of marriage, where a man is not entitled to sex from a woman even if they are married.
There has been several arguments and discussions on Twitter with people questioning the very institution of marriage itself, and reinforcing why marital rape needs to be criminalised.
When the question is about marital rape, it is crucial to understand consent, and also why we need a law that ensures that women have autonomy over their bodies.
In a country where men believe they have right to sex once they are married, and women are made to believe that it is “normal” for men to force themselves upon them, these crimes often go unreported.
Civil protection under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 isn’t enough. Criminalising marital rape will be a step in the right direction to protect the rights of women.