30% women face rape & violence; Modi govt believes marital rape is not rape      

In the case of triple talaq, the Central government was pro-active, but when sexual violence against women is under scrutiny, they choose to be a ‘sanskaari’ sarkar. Since Hindus comprise 80 per cent of the population, does it have to do with majoritarian politics?


Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Ajay Aggarwal/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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Ashlin Mathew

The Central government is against criminalising marital rape even though its own agency, National Family Health Survey, has stated in its 2015-16 fact sheet that 28.8 per cent women face spousal violence.

It had stated in its 20015-2006 survey that around 85 per cent of married women who have been physically abused since the age of 15 cite their current husband as the perpetuator. And around 10 per cent have experienced sexual violence, which translates into one in every ten women having been sexually abused.

Despite this incriminating data, the Centre has stated at the Delhi High Court that criminalising marital rape is likely to destabilise the institution of marriage, in addition to the law being an easy tool to harass husbands. The Centre has submitted that there can be no lasting evidence in case of sexual acts between a man and his own wife.

NHFS reports are released every five years, but there hasn’t been a cumulative report released since 2005. Maybe implicating data has them on the backfoot. However, the pan India fact sheet from the 2015-2016 survey has been released. It can be seen that 28.8 per cent women face spousal violence and the percentage is much higher in rural households, with it being 31.4 and in urban homes 23.6 per cent. The all India figure was 37.2 in 2005-06 and number has decreased only because the Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2006.

“Marital rape is happening as a matter of course. Men think it is their right to force women into having sex and women think men can force them too. The number of men in UP saying that they have to force their wives to have sex is 45-50 per cent and only one per cent of women admit they have been forced to have sex. This points to the fact that women have been keeping quiet and the men don’t think there is anything wrong with it,” asserts Colin Gonsalves, who is the third petitioner in the case at Delhi High Court.

In the 2015-16 state fact sheet, it shows that in Delhi, 27.1 per cent of married women have experienced spousal violence and this is an 11 per cent increase from the 16.3 per cent in 2005-2006.

30% women face rape
& violence; Modi govt believes marital rape is not rape      

In 2005, only about six of every hundred incidents of sexual violence committed by “men other than the survivor’s husband” are estimated to be reported to the police. Most incidents of sexual violence, however, were committed by husbands of the survivors: the number of women who experienced sexual violence by husbands was forty times the number of women who experienced sexual violence by non-intimate perpetrators, states Aashish Gupta, a research scholar with Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (r.i.c.e).

“Firstly, it is about calling the crime what it is and allowing the complainant to ask for justice if she wishes to do so. Secondly, the sentence for this kind of crime should be seven years to life, which is longer than the sentence for molestation. Thirdly, the passing of such a law allows for various protocols and protection to be put in place – hospitals have to take care of you in a particular way, what should be done and what should not be,” elaborates SC lawyer Karuna Nandy, who is appearing for the first petitioners RIT Foundation and The All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).

The Indian law is also muddled on this front. “The state should amend or remove Exception 2 to Section 375 in the definition to rape,” points out Gonsalves, adding that, “Exception 2 to Section 375 says that sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, if she is not under 15 years of age, is not rape. Section 376B says that whoever has sexual intercourse with his wife without her consent, shall be punished with imprisonment for a maximum of seven years.

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Published: 10 Sep 2017, 7:17 PM