Rape is Rape, even if by Husband: Karnataka High Court

“A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’,” a single-judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna of the Karnataka High Court said.

As a ruling that could shape the debate against marital rape, Karnataka High Court on Wednesday 23rd March, refused to let down the rape charges filed by a wife against her husband. By this, the Karnataka High Court has defied the exception law that is present on marital rape.

IPC Section 375 that defines rape carries a crucial exemption: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.” Karnataka high court’s single-judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna has defied this exception and refused to drop charges against the husband.

“A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’,” a single-judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna of the Karnataka High Court said. The “age-old…regressive” thought that “husbands are the rulers of their wives, their body, mind and soul should be effaced,” the court said. While the court did not explicitly strike down the marital rape exception, it forced the married man to face trial for rape charges brought by his wife. The husband had moved the High Court after a trial court took cognisance of the offence under Section 376 (rape).

The “institution of marriage does not confer, cannot confer and in my considered view, should not be construed to confer, any special male privilege or a license for unleashing of a brutal beast. If it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband,” Justice Nagaprasanna said.

“A brutal act of sexual assault on the wife, against her consent, albeit by the husband, cannot but be termed to be a rape. Such sexual assault by a husband on his wife will have grave consequences on the mental sheet of the wife, it has both psychological and physiological impacts on her. Such acts of husbands scar the soul of the wives. It is, therefore, imperative for the lawmakers to now hear the voices of silence,” the court said.

This is a ground-breaking move in the debate against marital rape. And we hope that this makes the marital rape exception laws change. 

-Staff Reporter

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