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The Centre on Monday maintained its stance that marital rape cannot be criminalised in India because of “traditional social structures” and “social realities”.  Arguing before the Delhi High Court, the Centre further said that marital rape can only be prohibited when there are “changes in the attitude of the prosecutors and those in society”. This is a cop-out by the Centre. Yes, a mere amendment to the law will not prevent marital rape. But it’s a very good place to start. According to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, “sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”. Until the court's rule on the matter and Parliament get its act together, one of the few legal remedies available to women facing domestic cruelty and violence is Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. Unfortunately, Section 498A specifies only mental and physical abuse under its “definition of cruelty by husbands and in-laws”. An amendment to this law would also include sexual abuse. This law, though, has been drowned out by an outcry of “misuse”, which is a mere smoke-screen. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, also provides protection from domestic violence but does not criminalise such acts. As the Justice Verma Commission observed, the “relationship between the accused and the complainant is not relevant to the inquiry into whether the complainant consented to the sexual activity”. The government’s own data presents an overwhelming case in favour of criminalising marital rape.
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