Criminalizing marital rape in India is always a controversial topic and in that patriarchal society the government always favored for men in that matter. On Monday the decision of the government didn’t exceptional. The Centre said that criminalizing marital rape of girls’ under 18 cannot be criminalized in India because of “social realities” and “traditional social structures”.
An MHA affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court said on Monday, “Although the age of consent is 18 years and child marriage is discouraged, marriage below permissible age is avoidable but not void on account of social realities. It is submitted that the social, economic and educational development of the country is still uneven and child marriages are taking place. It has been decided to retain the age of 15 years under the exception 2 of Section 375 so as to give protection to husband and wife against criminalizing the sexual activity between them.”
The Indian Penal code’s (IPC) section 375 gives the legal definition of rape; sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 years would be described as rape even if the accused claimed that the girl consented to the act. But exception 2 to the provision states that if the sexual activity is done with a girl above 15 years and the man is married with the girl then the term ‘Rape’ is not applicable in that case.
The Centre also said that the marital rape can only be prohibited when there are “changes in the attitude of the prosecutors and those in society”.
The more shocking is that MHA said according to the amended law, for any sexual acts with their wives who are above 15 years old, husbands will be protected from prosecution in view of the ‘social realty’ of child marriages in India.
The concept of marital rape is also an alien thing for Indian government. In March MoS Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said to the parliament that the concept of marital rape which is considered internationally cannot be applicable in Indian context.
In April Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi affirmed that the government was allowing for criminalizing marital rape.
Before the rape law was amended, in 2013 a parliamentary committee claimed that if the law is passed to criminalize marital rape then the entire family system will be under great stress. Finally, the government passed a new sexual assault law which did not criminalize marital rape.
According to a study by the UN Population Fund, more than two-third of married women in India between 15-49 years old have been faced marital assault. They have been beaten, raped or forced into sexual activity.
For many people in India the concept of marital rape is unknown or many ignore this thing for the so called “social realities”. Married or not married, forceful sexual act without a woman’s consent is rape.