“Women know the world is out there. Women know the world is out there because it hits us in the face. Literally. We are raped, battered, pornographed, defined by force, by a world that begins entirely outside us. No matter what we think about it, how we try to think it out of existence or into different shape for us to inhabit, the world remains real. Try it some time. It exists independently out of our will. We can tell it is there, because no matter what we do, we can’t get out of it.” Catherine A MacKinnon- Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law
Marital Rape, though the most common and barbaric act in Indian society, has for long hidden behind the cloak of marriage.
Raped by a stranger, a woman is allowed to raise her voice and in the process may gain sympathy of society and community. However, raped within marriage, no one will empathize with her as it is her `duty to keep her family intact and happy’. Shalu Nigam- The Social And Legal Paradox Relating To Marital Rape In India: Addressing Structural Inequalities
Marital rape is generally defined as rape committed by the person to whom the victim is married. It is much more traumatic being a victim of rape by someone you trust, and worse to have to cohabit with him. Studies show that health problems caused by marital rape include HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases, vaginal bleeding or infection, miscarriages, stillbirths, genital irritation, pain during sex, chronic pelvic pain, and urinary tract infections. The physical violence associated with marital rape can also lead to complications during pregnancy, resulting in health problems for both women and their children. Mental health impacts associated with marital rape and other forms of abuse by partners include depression, anxiety, emotional distress and suicidal thoughts. Some marital rape survivors report flashbacks, sexual dysfunction, and emotional trauma for years after the violence.
A 2014 study, Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India, by the ICRW and the UN population fund, found that 75% of men expected their partners to agree to sex. Moreover, more than 50% of men didn’t expect their partners to use contraceptives without their permission. In 2011, the International Men and Gender Equality Survey revealed that one in five Indian men have, at one point of time, forced his wife or partner to have sex.
However, no Indian official record is available for the same as marital rape is not a crime in India yet. Also, very few women even report to NGOs or other international bodies. The personal nature of marital relationships makes it hard for the victim to even see herself as a victim, let alone reporting the offending act to the authorities, which is why Marital Rape is one of the highly under-reported violent crimes.
“Very rarely do patients tell us about marital rape. In a few cases, we see injuries and probe them. They are not aware this is wrong,” said Dr Rekha Davar, head of gynaecology at JJ Hospital.
Women who do understand the same are unable to report because of various reasons including fear of their abuser’s retribution, inability to leave the relationship, social taboo, economic dependence, lack of support from family, lack of rights over matrimonial property and majorly lack of stringent laws against this barbaric act. They even fear that the shelter over them and their children would be taken away.
A lawyer working with non-profit group Maitri once said “If a wife thinks of complaining and goes to police, she will be told ‘you should be lucky he is coming to you. Go back home and make him happy’.”
This article is an attempt to unveil the shortcomings and anomalies in criminal justice system in India with respect to marital rape.
P.S This is a 3 part series article. This one being the first. The second part of the article can be accessed at https://thatmate.com/2016/11/07/arguments-against-criminalizing-marital-rape-in-india/
She is a 5th year student of B.L.S LL.B programme of Government Law College, Mumbai