Home » The Debate Over Marital Rape

A few days earlier, the Delhi High Court heard an appeal against the constitutionality of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provision granting marital rape immunity. The debate of criminalising Marital Rape is still going on in India for the past few years. According to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) forced sex in marriages is a crime only when the wife is below age 15. Thus, marital rape is not a criminal offence under the IPC. The court has asked the centre to make their stance clear about marital rape and the centre has asked for some time for making their stance clear. 

Following the appeal in Delhi High Court, there was a lot of appeal in social media fighting for ‘Men’s rights’. What the men had to say was about the adverse effects the change in law may bring to men and marriage. Their debate was that non-consensual sex in marriage cannot be termed as rape. These people should be the real red flags.

What we do not understand is the confusion regarding this law. Any non-consensual sex should be considered rape, even if it happens between a husband and wife. A wife should not be a commodity to provide sex unconditionally with no regard to her feelings or consent. It is as simple as that. Yet Indian Laws still hesitate in making marital rape a criminal offence. The excuse of the judicial system is that marriage in India is a sacred institution. Also that if a woman suffers sexual violence from her husband she can opt to act with the help of the domestic violence section in the penal code.

Yes, the domestic violence system exists. But it trivialises the crime that is rape. A crime should be considered as what it is – no matter who does that. Especially in a country like India, where girls are wed off to strangers through arranged marriages.  The moment the marriage is legalised the man is free to do any sexual acts to the wife with no legal repercussions. Here the mental readiness of the new wife is not taken into consideration. And there have been multiple cases where the new wife had to undergo the mental trauma of being raped. However, this heinous crime need not always be of a violent nature.

Marital rape does not refer just to the violent act of rape. It could refer to any situation where any party involved in a marriage, a woman or man is physically, emotionally or psychologically forced into having sex that they did not want to have at the present moment. There are thousands of women who silently suppress their feelings and provide sex to their demanding husbands.

We live in a society where talking about sex is taboo. So even if a person is being subjected to sex without their consent inside marriage, they would hesitate to come forward and talk about it to somebody. And in a country where there is not even any law for sexual crimes inside a marriage system, victims of marital rape coming out to the open would be even more scarce. 

The question is about getting protection from the legal system in any condition. We need to feel that if any crime is happening against us, our legal system has a law against it. But in the case of a system where the law itself does not exist, where is the sense of protection that one should feel?

  • Written by Poorna Krishnan
Poorna is from Trivandrum, Kerala, and likes to write novels and poems. She is a graduate of ‘The Film and Television Institute of India’,