Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

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.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Ending Violence Against Women Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring an end to gender-based violence. The EVAW Campaign elicits powerful content from women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as vocal grassroots leaders, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

UpasanaC's picture

I completely agree

You have so rightly mentioned here Sharontina that a Rape is a Rape no matter under what circumstances or who is the criminal. There is nothing wrong or unholy to accept the fact that your own husband is criminal. There is a law in India (I am not aware about other countries) that husbands have right of sex with their wives and if they say NO to it they have authority to drag them to court. This will be a big time encouragement for all the men out there that they are doing it all rightfully and she cant say NO to it. So even if she denies he will force it on her and the result is in front of us. In case of nirmala we can notice that he did nothing even before night of the wedding .. why ? because he knew that he can still go to jail for that but once married nobody can even legally blame him .. so , let's take a step further to see a day when we have a law for Marital Rape too.

Cheers to Life

Sharontina's picture

Its true

Yes Upasana,

Here a husband can claim for conjugal rights which merely calls her to have nothing but sex with the husband and the girl has to face the legal consequences for that. What a shame.

Thanks for that comment.

Love.

Sharontina

Merlin Sharontina

Wendyiscalm's picture

Rape

Hi Sharontina,

It is rape pure and simple.

Ubuntu (I am who I am because of who we are together),

Wendy

Wendy Stebbins
Founder/CEO
I AM ONE IN A MILLION Non-Profit Organization focused on helping street orphans and vulnerable children in Livingstone, Zambia Africa.

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Thanks Wendy for stopping by.

Appreciating your thoughts always.
Love.

Sharontina

Merlin Sharontina

Amei's picture

Sharontina - a need to be addressed

It is important that this act of violence be voice and discussed. It is important that we get people to raise these issues. In some societies it is extremely hard to express and some as you mentioned cannot distinguish the act of rape when committed the husband.

A forceful act of sex is rape - be it a husband, partner, boyfriend or a stranger.

I hope women stand-up for what is right to bring about a positive change in future. All of us have to work collectively and support the victims of rape.

In friendship
Amei

Sharontina's picture

Yes Amie

Yes dear,

i feel that every girl at school has to be educated to bring this to an end in the long run atleast in the near future.

Thanks for the concern

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Amei's picture

Education to change Attitude

It is a conceren and must be everyones concern.

It is attitude towards aspects of life and long held belief that shape people. Much effort is required to educate people rather than provid loads of information. A positive attitude ,with honesty and compassion is the key and to set as an example. We have to exhibit these attributes in our life for people to hear, feel and see.

This has been a challenge for generations not just for women but for all. Parents (males and females) need to set a good example. Now it is time for female parents to take lead and do something about educating children with the right attitude from the very beginning.

We must show by example.

All the best and sending love
Amei

olutosin's picture

Thanks for the info

Its endemic.

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

Sharontina's picture

It has to be stopped

Yeah its endemic, but has to be stopped or women will lose their mind forever getting trapped into these remaining as mere beings.

Sharontin

Merlin Sharontina

cece's picture

Continue Spreading The Word

Thank you for sharing your story! It definitely needs to be heard everywhere wifes especially need to understand the difference and realize it is nothing that they have done.

Love

Cece

We are blessed to have many Sisters!

Cece

Sharontina's picture

Yeah, I will

Cece,

First of all every woman should be taking charge instead of blaming the society or culture for victimising.

Not just resisting but fighting makes a difference.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Kadeen's picture

Rape is Rape, pure and simple

I agree rape is rape, but what I cannot understand how can another woman participate and help in such brutal acts against a fellow woman. It's disgusting!!!!

Kadeen Dennie
Listener
Pulsewire Magazine
kadeenphd@gmail.com

Sharontina's picture

Conjugal rights in India

Yes Upasana,

Here a husband can claim for conjugal rights which merely calls her to have nothing but sex with the husband and the girl has to face the legal consequences for that. What a shame.

Thanks for that comment.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Thanks Wendy for stopping by.

Appreciating your thoughts always.
Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Amei

Yes dear,

i feel that every girl at school has to be educated to bring this to an end in the long run atleast in the near future.

Thanks for the concern

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

It has to be stopped.

Yeah its endemic, but has to be stopped or women will lose their mind forever getting trapped into these remaining as mere beings.

Sharontin

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Cece

Cece,

First of all every woman should be taking charge instead of blaming the society or culture for victimising.

Not just resisting but fighting makes a difference.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Mukut's picture

Thank you for bringing this up

Sharontina,

Thank you so much for sharing such sensitive yet important issue which needs to be highlighted more.

I completely agree that in India, the concept of a 'dutiful' wife means subjugating oneself to the whims of the husband, hurting one's dignity in the process.

Thank you for this great post. Keep sharing more.

Much love,

Mukut Ray

Sharontina's picture

Yeah Mukut

I think its time for some legal clarification in this at the earliest.

Regards.

Merlin Sharontina

usha kc's picture

thank you for this couragious

thank you for this couragious voice.

keep it up.

Sharontina's picture

Yes Sisi

Yeah, i feel every voice matters and makes a difference.

Thanks for the comment.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

Sharontina's picture

Yes Sisi

Yeah, i feel every voice matters and makes a difference.

Thanks for the comment.

Love.

Merlin Sharontina

heena's picture

a rape is a rape, above

a rape is a rape, above article is well written, but there is another category that we feel endanger off, rape by relatives or close family member. There is no justification for this. A women faces dual betray. No matter what happens the scar of getting raped by family member can never be healed.

many women get raped by close family member there is a need to help these women to speak up and should not stay quiet for the sake for their family honor.

Cheers

Heena Yusuf .

Heena Yusuf

Sharontina's picture

Honor is a way to escape!

Yes Heena, the scar can never be healed. It grabs the entire life of the person dumping her in the dark. And the culprit roams about putting the cloth of honor, a way to escape. That a weapon he uses against the victim.

And in order to raise the voice of these women, first an awareness is needed, they have to be educated on that. Each and every girl right from school has to be made clear of this reality. And i hope that would definitely create the change.

Regards.

Merlin Sharontina

Nita's picture

Marital rape - the pardonable rape

Hi Sharon,
Thanks for keeping us busy.

I think you are right to hold that rape is rape because coercion was used to obtain the sexual intercourse.

That not withstanding, the question of sanctioning marital rape maybe endemic or may differ with culture and country.

If a marriage is founded on love, then there should be no case of rape or forced intercourse.
Following this strand of reasoning, marital rape is a symptom that the marriage is in trouble.

Love making is all about emotions, so coercion has no part part to play in it. Though everyone's opinion counts but when the woman is not ready for it and the marriage was based on love, the man has other means of seducing or tricking the wife to give in, because she herself loves the man.

This gives room for tender negotiations instead of forcing her. If the wife refuses and the marriage was based on love, the husband will understand that this wife who previously had always given her consent freely, the day she doesn't want make love, there shouldnt be a case out it.

The point am trying to make here is that marital rape is a symptom that the marriage is not longer healthy. Therefore it might be better solving the cause of the rape than the rape itself.

It will be difficult for a Cameroonian woman to sue her husband for raping her. If the rape was just once, both of them can resolve it on friendly terms out of court. But if the rape is repeatedly, then there is a problem. It might not really make much sense for a woman to remain in the same house and sharing a bed with a man she doesnt want to make love to. I think, if this happens, then there will be repeated rape which may lead to separation eventually because the reason for refusal indicates an underlying problem.

It is true that some women use sex refusal to obtain some demands from husbands who may not be cooperative.
Most husbands after enduring the starvation for some time, could resort to marital rape.
The cause of marital rape may be more revealing than the rape itself.

It will also be bizarre, if a Cameroonian woman takes her husband - her children's father to court for rape. If the court sends the man to jail, other women will jeer at the woman. Her in- laws will deal with her. The society at large will shun her and make life very unbearable for her. Her children will look upon her as a wicked mother. Her own family may denounce her. The women empowerment centres may give way.

This cannot even happen in Cameroon because I don't think there is such a law against marital rape though it is mentioned in some articles as unhealthy.
Maybe there will be such a law when a Worldpulse member in Cameroon, goes to parliament.
In some communities, its considered that the payment of the bride price paves the way for sex from the woman whenever the husband demands.

I have listened to women who have been raped by their husbands, we take it as a topic for fun.
We discussed it lightheartedly, making a jest of it.

Space would fail me recounting these experiences.

In all, let love lead.

NITA

Sharontina's picture

Great sharing

Dear Nita,

First i should apologize for such a delay in replying. But its so nice to see a friend from a faraway country responding to a posting with so much deep concern and pain and also sharing her thoughts. This is because we are women and women in the same platform facing the situation where woman have no say. I hope that someday, no matter a woman is Cameroonian, Indian or American, the woman has her say a voice that matters, that brings her dignity and gives her space and that makes her life.

Thanks dear.

Love and Peace.

Merlin Sharontina

Leslie Stoupas's picture

Deep change

I am very inspired by what you said about the importance of gender-neutral laws being put into place, as the issue then becomes one of bodily autonomy for ALL people instead of about men's marital rights alone. This is certainly an issue that has to change at a very deep level for many societies. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it and for taking a strong stand against violence against women in ANY form!

Leslie Stoupas

Sharontina's picture

Change is a must

Yes Change is a must, the change to bring back the respect for women, to bring back their life, to show their space in the society, to let the world know what and who they are.

Thanks for the comment.

Love and Peace

Merlin Sharontina

Strange's picture

Excellent!

Your story is so inspiring. It is so well developed and thought provoking. It is great to see someone stand up and shout their beliefs. It is clear in your writing that you are passionate yet level headed. Laws and societal views around the world need to develop to state that all forceful sexual experience is rape and therefore unlawful and wrong. Never stop sharing your words!

Thanks
Elizabeth Strange

Sharontina's picture

Thanks

Dear Elizabeth,

I will obey you, yes i will never stop sharing my words.

Thanks for the worthy comments and thoughts dear.

Love and peace

Merlin Sharontina

woman of prayer's picture

RAPE IS RAPE

It does not matter the circunstances but everything that goes against your will is wrong, I am a survivor of Domestic Violence.His Emotional Abuse against me, turned into Rape. I really did not understand it that way,he use to tell me, your my wife so I had to please him in every way. but I knew their was something wrong I just did not realize it.I use to cry myself to sleep every night.its awful the person you loved and married.humillation as a wife, woman,mother,sister.theirs a verse in the bible that many men use it in their on way for their proper benefit.but God did not creat women to be raped or beaten neither children.its very painful. when I go to give conferences to other women in diferent churches they are so scared to talk,just because their husbands are leaders.but I let them know that I am a survivor and its wrong what thier going threw. we were created to be loved.and its not their fault.

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

VIRGIN ISLANDS: Queens Igniting Fire Ending Violence

VIRGIN ISLANDS: Queens Igniting Fire Ending Violence

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

World Pulse Launches our Inaugural Community Advisory Board!

World Pulse Launches our Inaugural Community Advisory Board!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative