Rape and marriage
Finally, there has been a judicial acknowledgement of the fact that rape can happen within a marital relationship. In what can pave way for more concrete and landmark ruling, a Delhi court has observed that sexual discrimination, violence and rape can occur between a husband and wife, and the victim must be treated at par with other sufferers of sexual exploitation. So far, sexual abuse within a marital relationship had been clubbed under the Domestic Violence Act 2005, but specific legal attention was missing from the sexual side of it, which didn’t entitle the victim of marital rape to any State assistance. Given that marital rape has been outlawed in 104 countries around the world, including Britain, which gave us the Indian Penal Code in 1860, a legacy we are still grappling with, it is worth reflecting on the continuation of this barbaric phenomenon and the absolute legal oblivion in which it festers. In fact, Section 375 of IPC still states that ‘sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.’ This, despite strong recommendations in the Justice Verma Commission to delete explanation (2) of the said Section, which legalises forced sexual intercourse with wife, and turn it into an offence equal in degree with other forms of rape and sexual abuse. The panel, which became the fulcrum of the spruced up anti-rape law in the wake of the 16 December gang rape, was left disheartened when its counsel was summarily dismissed citing that India, land of ‘family values’, was not ready for the dramatic change. Unfortunately, the same argument was extended by Supreme Court while re-criminalising homosexuality in the country. However, the recent acknowledgement is a step in the right direction, particularly when studies have shown how one in five women in India has faced marital rape.