Marital Rape - How many of you would call it a rape?
Rape is Rape.
Marital Rape is Rape. Intimate Rape is Rape. Stranger Rape is Rape. Force-only Rape is still rape!
The subject of marital rape leaves many people uncertain; can the act really be termed marital 'rape' ?
"When it is the person you have entrusted your life to who rapes you, it isn’t just physical or sexual assault, it is a betrayal of the very core of your marriage, of your person, of your trust." (anon)
The main differences between stranger rape and marital rape:
Stranger rape is usually a one-off, someone you don't know, with whom you don't share any experiences or history. When the assault happens, there can be no doubt as to what is happening: that it is Rape (though even in such situations the victim will often wonder what she has done to precipitate the assault and will blame herself). In marital rape the circumstances are very different. It is - quite apart from a physical and sexual violation - a betrayal of trust. Here is a person whom you thought you knew intimately, with whom you share a history, a home and quite often children. Here is a person whom you have made love to on a frequent basis often over many years, with whom you have shared your most intimate secrets and fears, and whom you believe to love you, want the best for you, who would never intentionally hurt you. Marital rape is so destructive because it betrays the fundamental basis of the marital relationship, because it questions every understanding you have not only of your partner and the marriage, but of yourself. You end up feeling betrayed, humiliated and, above all, very confused.
When it comes to marital rape, women are often confused whether they have been raped or not. The scenario of a stranger raping a woman on the street is immediately identified as rape, where as forceful acts by a husband upon a wife are considered acceptable. This is partly due to the cultural belief that is rooted in women’s minds that ‘submitting’ to their husband is a sign of a dutiful wife.
Love is the foundation for a long lasting marriage. When a man unleashes this monstrosity on his wife and hurts her, it classifies as assault. One cannot claim to ‘love’ his wife when he forces himself on her, leaving her with vaginal tears and scars.
The truth is simple. When you force a woman to have sex with you - its rape. It does not matter whether the victim is married to you or not because no one deserves such brutality.
Marital rape is a serious form of violence that can have life-shattering effects for its victims. It had its life-shattering effect on Nirmala too, the fresh bride torn apart by her husband Venketesh during the so called first night ritual here in Tamilnadu, India on 20th Sep, 2012. The man’s sister Venketaswari tied the girls hands and supported the brutal act. The girl was found in a pool of blood the next day, ended up in the hospital for a surgery. But what could be done to treat the scar in her life forever. Research shows that it can be equally, if not more, emotionally and physically traumatizing than rape by a stranger.
Marital rape is illegal in 18 American States, 3 Australian States, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Rape in any form is an act of utter humiliation, degradation and violation rather than an outdated concept of penile/vaginal penetration. Restricting an understanding of rape reaffirms the view that rapists treat rape as sex and not violence and hence, condone such behaviour.
In the context of the Indian society, it is believed that an ‘ideal wife‘ is one who sacrifices everything to ensure that her husband lives a peaceful life. Today sadly, this archaic and appalling ideology has given birth to one of the grave manmade societal cataclysm: marital rape.
Many women who are victims of marital rape have great difficulty in defining it as such. The traditional idea that it is impossible for a man to rape his wife and that somehow, in taking our marriage vows we have abdicated any say over our own body and sexuality, basically denied ourselves the right to say 'no', is still prevalent amongst wives as much as amongst their husbands. A wife being raped will often question her right to refuse intercourse with her husband, and while she may realise that legally it now constitutes rape, there are many reasons which may prevent her from perceiving it in such a light.
Basically, as wives being raped by our husbands, we look for every reason, every excuse to deny it is Rape because we do not want to accept the alternative: it is Rape, he is hurting and humiliating us with intent, we can no longer trust him, turn to him in comfort, gain reassurance and protection from his company and our home is no longer safe.
People often preach that a matriarchal system of governance is the way to counter this problem of equality of respect. But again the stakeholders involved, miss the point of a dominant party having the power here. The need of the hour is to understand that we must graduate to an equal system of governance where each gender has equal access to any resource available. This move shall ensure the cleansing of the irascible social ideologies and pave the path for clamping down on marital rape and ensuring that it is recognized by the judiciary as a heinous crime where a victim undergoes physical and mental trauma due to the misdeeds of a person with whom she shares her livelihood.
The importance of consent for every individual decision cannot be over emphasized. A woman can protect her right to life and liberty, but not her body, within her marriage, which is just ironical. Women so far have had recourse only to section 498-A of the IPC, dealing with cruelty, to protect themselves against “perverse sexual conduct by the husband”. But, where is the standard of measure or interpretation for the courts, of ‘perversion’ or ‘unnatural’, the definitions within intimate spousal relations? 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.
Marital rape should be recognized by Parliament as an offence under the Indian Penal Code. The punishment for marital rape should be the same as the one prescribed for rape under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code. The fact that the parties are married should not make the sentence lighter. It should not be a defence to the charge that the wife did not fight back and resisted forcefully or screamed and shouted. The wife should have an option of getting a decree of divorce if the charge of marital rape is proved against her husband. Though a case of marital rape may fall under “cruelty” or “rape” as a ground of divorce, it is advisable to have the legal position clarified. Demand for divorce may be an option for the wife, but if the wife does not want to resort to divorce and wants to continue with the marriage then the marriage should be allowed to continue. Corresponding changes in the matrimonial laws should be made.
Marriage does not thrive on sex and the fear of frivolous litigation should not stop protection from being offered to those caught in abusive traps. Apart from judicial awakening; we primarily require generation of awareness. Men are the perpetrators of this crime. ‘Educating boys and men to view women as valuable partners in life, in the development of society and the attainment of peace are just as important as taking legal steps protect women’s human rights’, says the UN. Men have the social, economic, moral, political, religious and social responsibility to combat all forms of gender discrimination. In a country rife with misconceptions of rape, deeply ingrained cultural and religious stereotypes, and changing social values, globalization has to fast alter the letter of law.
It is conceded that changing the law on sexual offences is a formidable and sensitive task, and more so, in a country like India, where there is a contemporaneous presence of a varied and differentiated system of personal and religious laws that might come into conflict with the new amendments in the statutory criminal law. Further, though, there is need for substantial changes in the law on sexual offences such as making them gender-neutral and eliminating the inequalities, a radical overhauling of the structure of sexual offences is not advisable. The immediate need is criminalization of marital rape under the Indian Penal Code. But, mere declaration of a conduct as an offence is not enough. Something more is required to be done for sensitizing the judiciary and the police. There is also a need to educate the masses about this crime, as the real objective of criminalizing marital rape can only be achieved if the society acknowledges and challenges the prevailing myth that rape by one’s spouse is inconsequential.