The term marital rape is self-explanatory which refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse of a man with his wife. However, the Indian judiciary fails to recognise this as a crime and protects a man from being prosecuted on charges of rape.
“Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape,” reads exception 2 of Section 375. This states that women in India are only protected when they are below 15 years of age, unmarried or separated. Either of the conditions has exceptions according to the Indian context.
Criminalising marital rape has remained a burning topic in contemporary times as awareness around consent is increasing rapidly. Many are challenging marital rape more than ever.
Amid growing conversation on marital rape, the Delhi high court has also asked the Centre its stance on criminalisation. The Centre responded that it is looking into the matter and taking opinions from all the states and Union Territories.
On the hindside, men’s rights activists have raised concerns over criminalising marital rape. They claimed that sexual intercourse between a married couple should not be viewed in line with consent. “It is a milestone in life and brings with it many legal obligations. There are countervailing rights”, a men’s rights NGO told the court.
They claimed that criminalising marital rape will destroy the institution of marriage.
The very argument to not criminalise marital rape generalises forcible sex by a man with his wife. It rips women from having a dignified right over their body, desire and consent.
On this International Women’s Day, let’s pledge to continue the conversation of criminalising marital rape. Let’s normalise consent.