Govt closes ranks on the issue of marital rape
After the construed faux pas in a Parliamentary reply, the Ministry of Women and Child Development Ministry (WCD) has written to the Rajya Sabha seeking to withdraw its earlier response on marital rape. The amended response from the Ministry states that it is an issue that needs to be deliberated by the Law Commission. The WCD Ministry’s response is based on the new reply given by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), a view which the former is in agreement with.
In mid-March, there was a furore over Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi’s remark that marital rape cannot be criminalized in India. In a written reply to the question on March 10, 2016, in the Upper House while responding to a question on whether the government plans to criminalize marital rape, Gandhi had said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc.”
Meanwhile, sources close to Gandhi said, “It is a standard procedure in Government, if an answer to a question in Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha has been already given, then we use the information which has been provided, unless there is an update on the subject. In this case, the MHA had already replied to a question on the issue. The incident took place on March 10 and after that a similar question was put up to the MHA in Lok Sabha. To this the Home Ministry on March 15, 2016, changed it’s earlier stand.” The source added, “After this we too have amended our response. A fresh response has been sent by the WCD Ministry to the Rajya Sabha which is similar to the answer given by the MHA on 15 March in Lok Sabha.”
Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary had in the renewed response stated, “The Law Commission of India, while making its 172nd Report on “Review of Rape Laws” in March, 2000 did not recommend criminalization of marital rape. However, the Justice JS Verma Committee, while giving its Report on “Amendments to Criminal Law” in January 2013, recommended that law ought to be amended to delete the marital rape exception. The department-related parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs presented its 167th Report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 in the Rajya Sabha on 1st March, 2013.”
“While giving its report the department-related parliamentary standing committee on Home Affairs, inter alia, considered both the 172nd report on “Review of Rape Laws” given by the Law Commission of India, and the report of the Justice JS Verma Committee. The Committee deliberated the amendments to section 375 of IPC including the issue of marital rape and observed that if the marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress and the Committee may perhaps be doing more injustice. Representations on the matter are received from time to time. Thus the Ministry (MHA) has requested the Law Commission to deliberate upon the matter during the course of its comprehensive review of Criminal Justice System,” added Chaudhary.