In our country for many years, its woman who has suffered sexual abuse, be it rape, molestation abuse. Every woman whether she accepts or not, at some point of time has been abused by man and this is a brutal fact. Women have long suffered from high levels of sexual violence in our society, including at home. There are many woman facing sexual atrocities in marital lives and they are demanding Law against Marital Rape but the government is yet to frame laws to make it a punishable offence. The law states “sex by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape. Husbands can be charged with a comparatively minor offence of cruelty, which carries a maximum three years in jail or a fine. Women can also seek warning orders and other protections under domestic violence legislation. But still….that is not enough for deterrence.
We commonly say, marriage does not prosper on sex and the fear of frivolous litigation should not stop protection from being offered to those caught in abusive traps, where they are vilified to the status of chattel. Apart from judicial awakening; we primarily require generation of awareness. Men are the perpetrators of this crime.
In the elite class of society at least woman are vocal about these issues but if you see lower middle class or other classes, man beats his wife, demands forcible sex and also causes cruelty to her, but all that is tolerated in the name of marriage and status as husband. In male dominant society, somewhere we fail to teach basic human values to male child and that’s the reason he grows up with superiority complex against another sex. Marital rape could be by the use of force only, a battering rape or a sadistic/obsessive rape. It is a non-consensual act of violent perversion by a husband against the wife where she is physically and sexually abused. However, it is very difficult to prove. No one can define the consent. Most of the time woman generally has less inclination towards sex as she gets involved with many other family responsibilities. Many Indian women believed occasional wife-beating to be justified and having sex with wife is man’s right. Some are even scared if they refuse the man can go to another woman or develop less interest in her. So, by all means it becomes compulsion for woman to go through every pain. The wife’s role has traditionally been understood as submissive, docile and that of a homemaker. Sex has been treated as obligatory in a marriage and also taboo. At least the discussion open it, hence, the awareness remains dismal. Economic independence, a dream for many Indian women still is an undeniably important factor for being heard and respected. With the women being fed the bitter medicine of being “good wives”, to quietly serve and not wash dirty linen in public, even counselling remains inaccessible.
Not surprisingly, thus, married women were never the subject of rape laws. Laws bestowed an absolute resistance on the husband in respect of his wife, solely on the basis of the marital relation. In the present day, studies indicate that between 10 and 14 per cent of married women are raped by their husbands. The incident of marital rape soars to 1/3rd to ½ among clinical samples of battered women. Sexual assault by one’s spouse, accounts for approximately 25 per cent of rapes committed though marital rape is not an offence in India. Despite amendments, law commissions and new legislations, one of the most humiliating and debilitating acts is not an offence in India. A look at the options a woman has to protect herself in a marriage, tells us that the legislations have been either non-existent or obscure and everything has just depended on the interpretation by Courts.
Section 375, the provision of rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), has echoing very archaic sentiments, mentioned as its exception clause- Section 376 of IPC provides punishment for rape. According to the section, the rapist should be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than 7 years but which may extend to life or for a term extending up to 10 years and shall also be liable to fine unless the woman raped is his own wife, and is not under 12 years of age, in which case, he shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 2 years with fine or with both. This section in dealing with sexual assault, in a very narrow purview lays down that, an offence of rape within marital bonds stands only if the wife be less than 12 years of age, if she be between 12 to 16 years, an offence is committed, however, less serious, attracting milder punishment. Once, the age crosses 16, there is no legal protection accorded to the wife, in direct contravention of human rights regulations. How can the same law provide for the legal age of consent for marriage to be 18 while protecting from sexual abuse, only those up to the age of 16? Beyond the age of 16, a woman has no remedy.
A marriage is a bond of trust and that of affection. A husband exercising sexual superiority, by getting it on demand and through any means possible, is not part of the institution. Surprisingly, this is not, as yet, in any law book in India. Is excessive demand for sex perverse? Isn’t consent a sine qua non? Is marriage a license to rape? There is no answer, because the judiciary and the legislature have been silent.
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