Swati Chandra | May 29, 2015
While the word ‘rape’ is enough to fill one with rage, the term ‘marital rape’ is even more torturous and agonising as there is hardly any option to say no. Reason being the marital rape is not yet criminalised in our country. On one hand, the government in India believes that sexual violence is not prevalent here, countries in Europe and Americas have already come up with laws to put an end to the marital rape. Is it because marriages are 'sacred' in India but not in other countries?
Well, minister of state for home affairs Haribhai Chaudhary even went to the extent of saying, “the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament.”
The minister also cited the 172nd report on ‘Review of Rape Laws’ submitted by the law commission in 2000, which observed that the exemption of the spouse from rape charges should not be deleted since “that may amount to excessive interference with the marital relationship”.
However, the numbers don’t lie. Several studies suggest the prevalence of sexual violence within the institution of marriage.
The International Centre for Research on Women and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently conducted a study on 9,205 men and 3,158 women across seven states in India which reveals than more than one third of the men surveyed accepted having forced sex on their partners.
The study explores how the average Indian male interprets the idea of ‘masculinity’ on women.
Around 60 percent of men admitted to using violence to assert their dominance over their partner. While Odisha and Uttar Pradesh emerged as the states with the highest incidence of intimate partner violence at 75 percent, Punjab and Haryana followed at 43 percent and Maharashtra at 37 percent.
The National Family Health Survey (2005-06), conducted among 1,24,385 women in the 29 states, had 10 percent women reporting that their husbands had physically forced them to have sex.
The NFHS says that around 37.2 percent married women surveyed agreed to have experienced spousal violence (it may or may not include sexual violence). Out of these, 30.4 percent women were from urban belt while 40.2 percent women were from rural areas of the country. About 16.3 percent were educated. See here
Obviously, there is no available data of the number of marital rapes as exact, but a look at the increasing number of rape cases in which offenders were closed family members or relatives can give a vague idea of the sexual violence in marriages. Check here
Another set of numbers that gives some estimation on the sexual violence in marriage is the increasing cases booked under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 1,18,866 incidents of cruelty by husband or his relatives (under section 498A of IPC) were reported in 2013. This was 89,546 in 2009; 94,041 in 2010; 99,135 in 2011 and 1,06,527 in 2012.
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