Friday, 22 May 2015

Marital rape: trivialization vs criminalization - Part I


In the aftermath of Nirbhaya BBC documentary, the country came out united. Who would agree with Mukesh Singh's justification to rape? I guess, only miniscule proportion.  Now consider another case, Suppose a person did the same with his wife. I guess these will be the most probable reactions- 1. Aadmi hi vaaiyad tha (the man was beast),  this was an unacceptable act, so she should have gone for legal remedies, and if left to us, we would have lynched him 2. It is not possible marriage is a sacred institution, the wife should have been lying, moreover it is their personal matter and wife has already given consent to have sex at the time of marriage  (any third moderate reaction is welcome).

Though marital rape has been an issue of political and social debate for a long time without any conclusion yet. Lets try to demystify it.

What is marriage?
It is a social and legal institution  in which two people mutual consent to work out things together in the train of life.


What is marital rape?
Marital rape (also known as spousal rape) is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim's spouse. It is a form of partner rape, of domestic violence and of sexual abuse.


What does the data say?
Out of the total number of rapes reported to NFHS(though it is an informal survey whose premise was to provide anonymity), 97.7% rapes were committed by the people known to the victim, out of which marital rapes accounts for 2/3rd. UN study has established the fact that 75% men want their wives to agree to sex. There have been many heartrending stories of women raped every night, even during pregnancy and child birth. It is a physical as well as mental trauma because the perpetrator is known to the person, often very close. It is a bitter reality even in developed nations.


Why all the fuss now?
Recently during parliamentary proceedings, a minister reacted on a question regarding the status of marital rape in India, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors e.g. level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc”. Other proponents of the marital rape exception, also, argue that it is essential to preserve the integrity of marriage, which is a crucial social institution, so marital rape cannot be brought within the purview of rape law.



What are the possible reasons?
Though we can easily attribute the prevalence of patriarchal mindset as the main reason, yet there are many deep rooted causes.
According to NFHS survey around 74% marriages in India occur without due consent of the bride and the groom. How can we expect two strangers to be very comfortable with each other at the very first night? And the same thing becomes routine due to lack of any firm resistance. We, as a society are stuck in the bus vs bedroom debate and usually make a remarkable difference between the two. If a woman is getting raped in a bus it is rape, but in bedroom it is a ritual. This trivialization of marital rape is one of the major reasons for the perpetuation of the same.
Moreover, there is huge divide across the society. Though, the main victims are women, yet in most cases it is the elder women who give formal acceptance to marital rape by putting it in the category of necessary adjustment or "compromise" in a marriage. And it goes on and on across generations, and we consume this culture of adjustment. Forced sex has become a “wifely duty.”


Another important reason is economic dependence of women on their husbands and in-laws. Rape every night and domestic violence becomes a small price to pay, when basic survival is at stake.


To be continued...

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