Crime hidden under the Burkha of Tradition

Posted on August 13, 2014


Leaders define a society. In a country like India, which is diverse in terms of religious sentiments and social ideologies; it’s very much evident that when a sensitive topic like rape is being discussed, things do tend to get complicated. The issue with Indian society is that there are a lot of social evils embedded into our lives. And when we start talking about one, a chain of related problems starts flowing in.

For an average Indian, rape, which unfortunately is culture today, is just the simple violation of the sexual integrity of women. We associate rape with the hues and cries of the victim alongside the trauma and the battle for justice of the girl who has been molested. What happened to that physiotherapy student is known to us all, and somehow relate to what we are exposed to. But what we fail to comprehend is what happens in probably so many households in the country and we are not aware of. Things which have so far been hiding under the burkha of patriarchal society; in a society where women not being vocal about their rights is considered a tradition, very unfortunately though.

There are things that are never been talked about and has been prevalent in India for quite some time now. Yes, marital rape is being talked about here.

Marital Rape

Marital rape was something completely unheard probably 10 years back, but as the light of education finally touched India, people started being vocal about it.

Marital Rape refers to unwanted intercourse by a man with his wife obtained by force, threat of force, or physical violence, or when she is unable to give consent.  It has been approximated that by an Indian Law Journal that that every 6 hours; a young married woman is burnt or beaten to death, or driven to suicide from emotional abuse by her husband.

However, marital rape has been something that has always been exempted from the subject of rape laws. This situation can be very well interpreted by what Sir Mathew Hale, Chief Justice in England, during the 1600s wrote. To quote him exactly, “The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given herself in kind unto the husband, whom she cannot retract.”

Now clearly, as mentioned we have patriarchal society, so we don’t even need a logic to or classify marital rape as an offence, culture blindfolds us. Again picking up statistics, studies indicate that between 10 and 14% of married women are raped by their husbands: the incidents of marital rape soars to 1/3rd to ½ among clinical samples of battered women. Sexual assault by one’s spouse accounts for approximately 25% of rapes committed. Women who became prime targets for marital rape are those who attempt to flee.

Now what Section 375 mentions about martial rape, echoes very archaic sentiments; “Sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”.

Before we go about the crimes being committed on road, we must look into what is happening inside our homes. When we talk of rape law reforms, we need to look into things which make justice uniform. Nirbhaya is dead, but probably there so many Nirbhayas out there who just wish to dead. They are subjected to sexual torture and they can’t even be vocal about it.

The wife’s role has traditionally been understood as submissive, docile and that of a homemaker. Sex has been treated as obligatory in a marriage and also taboo. Atleast the discussion openly of it, hence, the awareness remains dismal. Economic independence, a dream for many Indian women still is an undeniably important factor for being heard and respected.  Probably a meeting for an enlightened committee like this bring about the much needed change, if not culturally but at least legally.

Posted in: Truth