INDIA’S central government took a stand against criminalising marital rape on the grounds it may “destabilise the institution of marriage” and could become an easy tool for “harassing the husbands.”
In an affidavit filed in the High Court on Monday, the government called for a clear definition “as to what constitutes marital rape and what would constitute marital non-rape”, as reported by The Indian Express.
The argument comes in response to a number of petitions from victims and rights groups who want marital rape to be legally recognised and penalised.
The affidavit goes on to cite “rising misuse” of the anti-dowry law to demonstrate how laws dealing with violence against women can be misused as a form of punishment, making men vulnerable to harassment.
It also claimed there could be no lasting evidence in the case of sexual acts between a man and his own wife.
Prominent governors have spoken out against the petitions, with one claiming “there will be more husbands in the jail, than in the house.”
— Kavita Krishnan (@kavita_krishnan) August 29, 2017
Rights organisations have sought that Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, the law that defines rape, should be declared unconstitutional, arguing that it discriminates against married women being sexually assaulted by their husbands.
The Section includes an “exception provision” which states that the rape law will not apply to assault or sexual intercourse by a husband on his wife who is above the age of 15 years.
This clause was introduced in 2013 by way of amendment after more stringent anti-rape laws were devised months after the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old medical student on a bus in 2012.
The affidavit echoes sentiments expressed by Prime Minster Narendra Modi who said the country should not blindly follow Western countries and claimed marital rape could not be criminalised because “India has its own unique problems due to uneven literacy, economic and social diversity.”
More than 50 countries, including the United States, Nepal, Britain and South Africa, criminalise marital rape.
Sexual violence against women is a widespread problem in India. According to activists, conservative and patriarchal norms make it difficult for victims to speak out about sexual violence by their husbands. As a result, there are no accurate figures on marital rape.
More than 40 percent of married women aged 15 to 49 experience domestic violence, according to government data, rising to 70 percent among child brides.
As reported by NDTV, the High Court has also agreed to hear a petition by an NGO opposing the plea to make marital rape a criminal offence. The NGO says it represents men who are victims of alleged misuse of gender laws, claiming a large number of men are “victimised” by women who file “false” cases of rape and domestic violence.
The new petition claims that when a person gets married, he or she gives consent to the spouse to have sex and any such sexual act cannot be termed as rape.
Additional reporting by Reuters