It’s Official: Marital Rape Is Legal In India

Sameera Ehteram
As if things weren’t bad enough for the women in India, a judge officially confirmed that rape laws do not apply to married couples.

So, once you’re legally wed, forced sex is no longer a crime.

The golden edict was issued in a case where a woman alleged she had been drugged, forced to marry, and then raped. The complainant was told there was no evidence she had been drugged. Furthermore, the court ruled that if it was the woman’s husband who had forced himself on her; it wouldn’t qualify as rape under Indian law.

In exact words, “The prosecutrix (the wife) and the accused  being legally wedded husband and wife, and the prosecutrix being major, the sexual intercourse between the two, even if forcible, is not rape and no culpability can be fastened upon the accused.”

India may have strengthened its sexual assault laws after the 2013 gang rape incident, but it is still among the few countries in the world including China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where the husband can force himself on his wife without any fear of legal consequences.

Related: A Year After The Delhi Rape Case, Are The Women In India Safe?

The provision of rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that  “Sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 12 years of age, is not rape.”

 Section 376 of IPC provides imprisonment as a punishment for rape unless the woman is the suspect’s own wife, who is more than 12 years of age. However, if she is under 12, the punishment is imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years plus a fine.

The apathy towards the issue is apparent enough in the attitude of the authorities. Criminalizing marital rape was also among the suggestions of last year’s Verma Committee, a three-member panel appointed to suggest amendments to India’s sexual assault laws after the Delhi Gang Rape Case. The government rejected the point and took it out of the draft bill before presenting it to the Parliament as it had “the potential of destroying the institution of marriage”.  

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It is not surprising then that the law grants absolute immunity to the husband solely on the basis of his marital relation.

It is sad that one of the most demonic acts is not an offence just because the victim may be legally wedded to her assailant.