by Gaurav Pandhi

Two months ago, we were busy debating if the documentary by BBC on the Delhi gang rape of 2012 should be banned or not. In my view, as I also wrote it here, there was a call for it to be banned because we didn’t want to accept that a rapist – that was being given airtime – thinks exactly like most in our society.

India was not ready to come to terms with the fact that a rape can be justified by our society.

Where Mukesh Singh, the convicted rapist, had a justification for one kind of rape, the government now has a justification for a different variety: ie.marital rape.

Our government of the people, for the people, by the people.

Reuters image.Reuters image.

Reuters image.

“Rape” is defined as “the crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse or any other form of sexual penetration with the offender against their will”. The government, however, obstinately insists on giving immunity to the man if his victim is his wife.

Minister (MoS Home Affairs), Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, suggests that due to factors such as level of education/ illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs etc., marriage is a sacrament, etc. in India. Therefore, marital rape cannot be criminalised. In short, marriage is a license for the man to rape his wife.

The justification offered by the Honorable minister – much as the justifications offered by Mukesh Singh – vindicates my view that in our society, rape is acceptable. There is certainly a distinction made with regard to circumstances, but the collective conscience of our nation validates rapes.

Today, while we have effective safeguards for married women to protect them from physical abuse and dowry, it is mind-boggling that we refuse to save them from sexual abuse. ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ scheme has been initiated by the present government to save the girl child and provide education. But what does it mean to educate our girls before marriage, and yet leave them powerless to save themselves from being raped after marriage.

The reasons suggested by the government in defense of the marital rapes are the same as those parroted by the khap Panchayats to support their horrific unconstitutional decrees. And the arguments given by those accused of honor killings. And yet the latter inspire outrage while marital rape evokes, at best, ambivalence.

We are outraged at the increasing number of rapes across the country, yet remain quiet or complacent when it occurs within marriage.

Most of the rapes go unreported and the actual number could be far more alarming. But how about this bloodcurdling fact: according to the latest National Family Health Survey, husbands commit the majority of the acts of sexual violence in India. Out of the total number of rapes reported to NFHS, 97.7 percent were committed by spouses of the victim.

Sexual consent is the right of every woman – married or unmarried – as much as of men, and nonconsensual sex should be treated exactly the same, regardless of the relationship of the perpetrator to the victim. The absence of a law to safeguard the same is a human right violation and unjust towards women in the world’s biggest democracy.

Reyhaneh Jabbari was recently hanged in Iran for killing a man who tried to sexually abuse her. In India, Reyhaneh would have been hailed as a hero for fighting back. But how many of us would be as eager to celebrate her if she was married and the offender was her husband?

If the above analogy immediately triggered in your mind, even for a nano-second, an instant rejection because “the circumstances” are different”, you should know there’s a problem with your mindset. Somewhere inside, you believe that a husband raping his wife is “different.”

Every woman has the right to retaliate against nonconsensual sex and it doesn’t matter who the offender is.

We never accept the idea of women marrying their rapist — a practice we condemn as belonging to the Middle Ages. Right? Then how can we accept that the law expected women to live with their rapists and get raped again and again? Why is the response different? It shows the diffusion of patriarchal customs and mindset in our society – in both men and women.You’ll find that inner khap panchayat in us all.

View original article:  

What if Mukesh Singh raped his wife? Marital rape reveals our gross double standard on sexual violence