'Criminalising marital rape can destabilise institution of marriage'
New Delhi: Making marital rape a criminal offence will make men vulnerable to harassment by their wives, the Central government told the Delhi High Court on Tuesday in response to a clutch of petitions by women's organisations who want marital rape to be legally recognized and penalized.
The Centre said in an affidavit that marital rape may become an easy tool for harassing the husband and that there can be no lasting evidence in the case of sexual acts between a man and his own wife. It has argued for status quo, also saying that making criminalising marital rape would "destabilise the institution of marriage".
Women's organisations have sought that Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the law that defines rape, should be declared unconstitutional, arguing that it discriminates against married women being sexually assaulted by their husbands. Section 375 has an "exception provision" which states that the rape law will not apply to assault or sexual intercourse by a husband on his wife who is above the age of 15 years.
The exception clause in the law was brought by way of an amendment in 2013, as more stringent rape laws were framed months after the brutal gangrape of a medical student in a moving bus on December 16, 2012.
For years, women's organisations have been demanding that the rape of a woman by a husband be recognized as a criminal act that carries penalties. The High Court had asked the Centre to spell out its stand on the petitions it is hearing. The Centre had earlier this year said it cannot criminalise marital rape as "India has its own unique problems due to uneven literacy, economic and social diversity."