Women’s issues have never really stirred the governments in India. We’ve had a woman Prime Minister, a woman President, women Governors, Chief-Ministers, Education and Foreign Ministers; IPS, IAS and IRS Officers, but to what effect?
From the reality show judges with a penny’s worth of brain to actual rocket scientists from ISRO, everyone has shouted the deplorable condition of a woman in India, and yet the State hardly lifted a finger. And every government since 1947 is equally to blame.
Why? Because of what the Law says:
Section 375 of IPC exempts non-consensual sexual intercourse of a husband with his wife, the wife being not less than 15 years of age, from charges of Rape.
To put that in perspective: a 40 year old guy can marry an 18 year old and force her to sleep with him, and he would still not break a single law!
Yes! That’s exactly the society we live in. It’s a misogynist, medieval world, that treats women as mere objects. And it has got nothing to do with “western culture”.
What’s the rationale behind non-criminalisation?
According to the government, the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context. Several factors outlined are —
- Illiteracy and poverty: a girl is a financial burden, let’s get rid of her
- Myriad social customs and values: a girl is “paraya dhan”, meant to be given away
- Religious beliefs: marriage is a “sacrament” – a religious ceremony, and not a union through choice
If you too are finding yourself holding back the urge to throw-up, well done, you’ve understood the gravity of the situation. If not, here is a shameful (and yet truthful) fact —
Of all the rape victims who were married, 97.7% said they were raped by their husbands. Yes, those same men who stood before a god and swore to protect their wife’s honor no matter what. Those men. 97.7%. (The National Family Health Survey)
The Justice J.S.Verma Committee said that the exemptions given to marital rape “stems from a long outdated notion of marriage which regarded wives as no more than the property of their husbands”. The committee also recognized a “women’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity” even while engaging in intimate relations prior to marriage.
The committee suggested widespread reforms across the political and social landscape of the country. It also suggested that marital rape be made a criminal offense.The recommendations were never implemented.
The recommendations were never implemented.
The fact that we still believe in ‘implied consent’ in marriage is the death of our right to call ourselves a civilized society. The right to bodily integrity of a woman is her inalienable right. Any infringement upon that right of her is an encroachment of the sanctity of womanhood itself.
Rape is rape, and it can neither be qualified by the argument of culture, nor be bound by the flimsy rationale of the sham we call a marriage.
We claim to be the world’s next superpower. In the same breath we lay a claim to the inheritance of world’s economy and commerce. However, blinded by the glitter of that greed, we are unable to see the corpses that we’re laying on the path to a seat at the world’s High Table.
I am afraid there’ll come a day when we’ll look back on today, and all that will meet the eye are ghosts of our narrow-mindedness. And those ghosts will be clad in red sarees … adorning a vermillion mark on their foreheads …