India is in the midst of a horrific rape epidemic with heinous stories of sexual violence surfacing all over the country. Despite the gory mistreatment of women, Indian law still does not penalize men who rape their wives.
Now, a high court judge is fighting back for the rights of women.
Justice J.B. Pardiwala of the Gujarat High Court recently dismissed rape charges against a husband who allegedly sexually assaulted his wife. The wife claimed she was also subjected to “physical and emotional torture.”
Pardiwala unwillingly ruled against the rape charges as the Indian penal court explicitly states “sexual acts by a man with his own wife … are not rape.” The man could be charged with sexual harassment and spouse cruelty, but the punishment for these charges is much less than that of rape.
As the judge announced his ruling, he showed his dissatisfaction with the restriction the law puts on criminating these monstrous acts committed in the name of marital consent. He said outlawing non-consensual marital rape is the stepping stone towards “teaching societies that dehumanized treatment of women will not be tolerated.”
“Marital rape is not a husband’s privilege, but rather a violent act and an injustice that must be criminalized,” he said.
However, this is not the first case of marital case to reach the court. Non-consensual marital sex is widespread problem in India.
According to a 2018 National Family Health Survey, more than 80 percent of the married women who were subjected to sexual violence, named their husband as the person behind the crime.
In 2014, one-third men in seven Indian states admitted to committing forced sexual acts with their wives.
An Indian attorney, Mihira Sood, deemed the cultural conditioning of considering marital rape “an inevitable part of marriage” a major factor contributing to the frequency of this act.
“Marital rape is an extremely widespread problem. [It’s] compounded by the fact that it is not recognized as an offense, either by the law as well as by much of society that is conditioned to see it as an inevitable part of marriage,” she said.
Observers believe Pardiwala’s ruling could prove to be an important step in criminalizing marital rape in India, however, getting the law changed will not be an easy task.
Despite the mounting pressure from the public to change the law, the Indian government pushed back the suggestion by claiming such a change could “destabilize the institution of marriage.”
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee