“Out of 1,000 victims of domestic violence, 900 women said they have been sexually assaulted by their husbands.”

Lack of a law against marital rape is hurting Hyderabads women this is howImage for representation
news News Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 17:19

It’s one of the most shocking cases of violence in recent times: A 21-year-old in Hyderabad filed a complaint in March, accusing her husband of forcing her to have sex with him and his friend. In her complaint, the young woman said that her husband had drugged and raped her in an earlier instance.

Shockingly, her mother-in-law reportedly knew about what her son was forcing her to do, and instead of taking any action, she told her daughter-in-law to ‘cooperate’ with her husband.

A case of rape and ‘unnatural sex’ have been filed against the husband, mother-in-law and the friend, and the police have arrested all three accused.

As horrifying as the case is, this is not an exception to the rule when it comes to domestic violence, say activists.

Domestic violence cases in Hyderabad city are on the rise. In the last nine months, the city’s SHE team (a special police team formed to tackle violence against women) has received as many as 900 complaints.

But not all cases of domestic violence are reported, just like any other form of gender violence. And among the cases that are reported, only 4% contain a complaint of marital rape, say officials. The actual numbers though are much higher than the statistics, says D Kavitha, Assistant Commissioner of Police of SHE team in Hyderabad.

“Several times women do not file complaints of marital rape due to social stigma, and many cases go unreported. Though in some of the physical assault cases, marital rape is involved, the women don’t come forward and talk about it as there is no separate law for it,” she says.

Another reason why women don’t report marital rape: They consider it ‘normal’ for men to force themselves on women within marriage.

“In a patriarchal society, marital rape is not considered as a crime. It is true that some men treat their wives as their property, and they do not consider forcefully sexual intercourse with wife to be a rape. It some cases even women also think that it is normal,” says Jameela Nishat, founder of Shaheen Women's Resource and Welfare Association, an Hyderabad-based NGO works for the welfare of women in the city.

“We’ve interviewed nearly 1,000 women victims of domestic violence, out of which 900 woman said they have been sexually assaulted by their husbands,” she says.

While many believe that it’s only young women who are victims of marital rape, experts say this is not the case. Jameela recalls the case of a woman who was a victim of marital rape at the age of 55. Unable to tolerate the harassment, she recently opted for divorce.

While marital rape is not a crime in India, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 does list sexual abuse as a form of domestic violence. Under this law, women can get civil protection if they have been subjected to marital rape. However, that is not enough.

In fact, in a country where child marriage has been ‘abolished’, we still have regressive rules that leave our children at risk. According to the Indian Penal Code, marital rape of wife ‘over the age of 15’ is not punishable.

According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Telangana stands sixth highest across the country in cruelty by husbands and in-laws, with 7329 cases registered in the year 2015.

Considering there is no way to find out how many of them involved marital rape, removing the exception to this form of violence in our laws is crucial for addressing the issue.


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