What’s so sacred?
It is in congruence with logic and good sense that an act of rape is appalling, notwithstanding the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. That said what makes a case of marital rape different -so to say- is essentially the institution of marriage that is a critical factor in the life of a person, particularly an Indian woman.
The Justice Verma Committee, set up to recommend comprehensive changes in response to the anti-rape movement of December 2012, had unambiguously recommended that the exception to marital rape must be removed from the rape law. However, in a recent occurrence, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi asked the Home Ministry whether the government planned to bring in a bill to remove the exception to marital rape that is currently enshrined in the rape law. Such a proposal, many would argue, is nothing short of contemptible. In response, Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, said that the government had no intention to change the existing law.
In proposing this abomination the Government of India has, effectively, told women that marriage is sacred, and they have no right to remedy. Owing to the general chauvinistic and sexist mind-set of the Indian populace, our representatives in Parliament continue to enforce this morbid misogynistic and retrograde attitude. Parliamentarians, however, are expected to be people with a greater understanding of such matters. The only remedy today under criminal law available to women facing domestic cruelty and violence is Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. This law, though, has been drowned out by an outcry of “misuse”. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 provides protection from domestic violence, but does not criminalise such acts. The pivotal aspect in a case like this is marriage. The argument of that being a sacred bond aside, socially, the institution of marriage is one that all women do not have an option to walk out of. The issue of marital rape is one that requires far deeper consideration, not random insensitive proposals. Excluding it from the rape law will be dishonourable move on the government’s part. The Centre must address these concerns.