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Sad irony

In a shocking assertion on Thursday, a senior functionary of the Rashtra Sevika Samiti, which is reportedly the women’s wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, claimed that there is no such thing called marital rape. 

“There is nothing called marital rape,” said Rashtra Sevika Samiti General Secretary Seetha Annadanam. “Marriage is a sacred bond. Coexistence should lead to bliss. If we can understand the concept of this bliss, then everything runs smooth.” The RSS’s women’s wing is only adopting the line followed by the Centre. In late August, Centre told the Delhi High Court 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 could only be prohibited when there are “changes in the attitude of the prosecutors and those in society”. As argued in these columns earlier, this is a cop-out by the Centre. Yes, a minor amendment to the law will not prevent marital rape. But it’s a splendid place to start. According to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, “sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”. 

Until the courts 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 assault. 

The government’s data presents an overwhelming case in favour of criminalising marital rape. It’s ironic that during her address, Seetha Annadanam also spoke of the horrific realities of domestic violence.
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