Recent statistics state that about 95% of rape cases in India are committed by a person known to the victim. Data also depicts that a woman is attacked once in every 3 minutes in India. The number of married women being sexually attacked by their husbands is on the rise in the country.
The country had made it to the news for one of the most brutal rape cases committed in 2012. This required a serious revision in the law. The law was revised with there being a few amendments. However, marital rape was left outside the paradigm of the definition. Supposedly this means that “marital rape” is not considered to be rape in the first case. Leading political figures have stated that the culture of the country is such that the internationally acceptable definition of “marital rape” cannot be applied in the Indian context. This has conveniently legalized marital rape to the advantage of several husbands. Marriage suddenly seems to have become a license to exploit wives and abuse them without the fear of any form of implication. It is not unheard of, for several Indian women to be exploited in their households for forced sexual pleasures. Somehow, leaving the notion of marital rape outside of the definition of rape has unknowingly penalized married women in the name of revising the definition and providing support to women.
Despite recommendations being made by the Justice Verma committee; that was responsible to suggest amendments to the rape law post the 2012 rape case, marital rape still has not been criminalized. Feminist scholars continue to denounce such practices and openly criticize gaps in the political system within the country that has not been successful in ending the inhumane exploitation of women. The number of instances of marital rape are seen to be exponentially increasing due to a multitude of reasons such as a feeling of powerlessness among women, unwarranted supremacy of men and a forced reinforcement of the cultural dogmas that exist within the Indian society. Due to a disparate rule of law, the power equation in a heterosexual marriage is advantaged in the favor of the alpha male. This alpha male is obviously considered the stronger personality in the relationship and has extensive control over the woman he marries in the areas of finance, social relationships as well as sexual relationships. This often leaves the woman in the relationship feeling oppressed and ill-treated. This means that in India if a man wants to commit rape all he has to do it get married and exploit his partner. This will not only satisfy his sexual desires but will also leave him scot free. On the other hand, the woman is left feeling helpless, scared, ashamed, mentally and physically pained. What surprises me the most is that in a time and era when the world is talking about the empowerment of women and the seriousness of crimes such as rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment and the like; how has a country taken such a stance on marital rape? The hypocrisy within the society, culture and the political set up continues to put women at a higher risk. The surmountable efforts by community based organizations, international bodies etc. is meaningless when the law is not in the favor of women. Despite there being enumerable community based organizations working in this area; the fact that “marital rape” is not a crime leaves women at the mercy of their husbands. In an issue which is not treated as a crime; efforts by community based organizations, the women themselves or even their families seems pointless.
The existential question at this point must be whether India as a country wants to risk the sisters, wives, daughters of their country? Whether marriage should be a license for men to subjugate women? Whether women should grow up in constant fear of being taken advantage of? Whether we want to continue promoting gender inequality? Whether we want to allow women to live in abysmal and dismal conditions upon being married? Marital rape is a serious crime that exists behind closed doors in India. A closer inspection and revision of the existing law on rape can be an answer to all of these unanswered questions.