Before I proceed with my article, I would like to focus on two words. “Marital” and “Rape”. Let’s see what the dictionary has to say about these two words,

Marital: (adj.) of marriage

Rape: (v) force someone to have sex with them against their will ; (n) an act of raping

From the meaning of these two words straight from the Oxford English Dictionary, it is quite clear that “Marital Rape” refers to rape committed by a person to whom the victim is married.

“Rape” is a criminal offence no matter whosoever is committing it and under what circumstances and social institution this crime is being committed. The comment that Maneka Gandhi (Union Minister of Women and Child Development) made in the parliament is moot and pointless. The idea of rape does not have any western or eastern context, it is a heinous crime and whether this crime deserves a punishment or not is not even debatable. Just because of factors such as “poor levels of education, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs and the mindset of the society is to treat marriage as sacrament” (the reasons Maneka Gandhi mentioned in her written reply as mentioned in The Hindu) is part and parcel of the Indian society. It does not justify the basic fact that “Marital Rape” in India is not rape and not a criminal offence.

Also, to those arguing against the criminalization of Marital Rape as something that would ruin the institution of marriage and that the private domain should remain outside the purview of the law, must take note of the fact that Domestic Violence which covers both physical and sexual abuse as grounds for the intervention of legal system in the private/domestic, has every possibility of ruining this institution of marriage on the very same grounds that a charge of Marital Rape would.

The whole idea of exempting Marital Rape as a criminal offence stems from an extremely misogynistic and patriarchal view of the society that considers women, once married, as the property of their husband. People fail to understand that action needs to be taken to break such harmful views that proves detrimental to the society as a whole. Just because the Indian society is not quite ready to bring about a change in the system, that doesn’t mean the fallacious thoughts and ideas about institutions such as marriage should prevail. The best way to bring about a change in the mindset of the people is to criminalize Marital Rape and pass a law in favour of it. By exempting it, the wrong notions are being perpetuated in the society constantly.

The Justice J.S. Verma committee, which recommended bringing about a change in the law relating to the offences and crimes against women, called for “Marital Rape” to be criminalized. However, this was not implemented.

Maneka Gandhi being both actively involved in politics and the Union Minister of Women and Child Development, by making such a statement has failed in being a representative of women, being a woman herself.

It is time to actively promote the notion of “implied consent” in the institution of marriage. The country’s law is required to cater to both the needs and demands of the citizen irrespective of their gender, religion, class, creed, caste and most importantly “marital status”.