All you need to know about Marital Rape: How can females seek help regarding Marital Rape

All you need to know about Marital Rape: How can females seek help regarding Marital Rape

All you need to know about Marital Rape: How can females seek help regarding Marital



Even as India celebrates 70 years of independence, women in the country continue to be neglected and are not truly free and independent. Rape is a crime against women that violates her dignity and self-esteem, and when it occurs within the four walls of a matrimonial home, it reduces the woman to the status of an object used primarily for sexual gratification.


In India, marriage is regarded as a sacred social institution. The legal sanctions attached to a husband and wife's sexual relationship are the most distinctive aspects of their relationship. Marriage, on the other hand, has now become a licence to rape. How can a husband be granted the authority to rape his wife? Rape is just rape.


How can the institution of marriage be considered sacred if women suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally with no recourse? To address this, this article has discussed the concept of marital rape, and how females can seek help regarding marital rape


An Understanding of Marital Rape

Marriage is a legally binding agreement between a man and a woman. It is legal for a husband and wife to have sexual relations. Due to the legality of sex, the husband gains authority over the wife, which becomes the sole cause of marital rape. While the legal definition varies, marital rape is any unwanted sexual intercourse or penetration obtained by force, threat of force, or when the wife is unable to consent. In a proper interpretation, the husband cannot be held liable for raping his wife because of presumed matrimonial consent to cohabit.


Despite the growing number of cases of marital rape in our country, no statute or law defines marital rape. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution mentions the right to equality, but women's rights are violated in cases of marital rape.


Marital rape legislation is required. Women cannot be expected to accept marital violence quietly.


So, what is the fuss about? 

Marital rape is the topic of the hour, and the debate is whether to criminalise it or leave it alone. The Ichhori Team is taken aback by the fact that many people believe criminalising it is a bad idea.


In India, the concept of submissive women is so deeply ingrained that it is difficult for people to accept anything that contradicts it. People are claiming that families will be shattered. However, this argument is the reason we need a law criminalising marital rape. The right of a woman to her body and self-esteem is not worth sacrificing for the sake of the greater good.

Despite the fact that it is all too common, it must be changed. And what better place to begin than with the Constitution?


Rahul Gandhi, a Congress MP, tweeted in support of criminalization. Many people were not pleased with the tweet. The perplexing part was discovering women tweeting against this step. The majority of the tweets discussed how this would make men vulnerable to harassment and how it could be weaponized, similar to the dowry law, to ruin men's lives. But all of these tweets overlook the same point: what about women?


What will really help women?

It's amazing how every time a debate about women's rights begins, it's overshadowed by the fact that some women have wrongfully accused men of crimes they did not commit. It has been extensively discussed how men have suffered at the hands of women as a result of laws such as these. There are tweets about how men are the true victims, completely ignoring women's experiences and making them feel like it's their fault. The people who love her the most are likely to tell her to keep quiet. But being discouraged by people who don’t even know you or your story can take a toll.


According to a recent study, achieving gender equality would take an average of 135.6 years. People who are unaware of this fact believe that the law gives women complete power, which is contrary to gender equality. A law that gives women the right to defend themselves after being the victim of a violent crime is being viewed as a weapon. But the thing is, there is no power here; it is simply a tool for self-defense. Everything was fine when the husband or his family held all authority. It's almost embarrassing to see people fight to overturn a law that contains the word "rape."


Several reports of increased abuse have surfaced during the pandemic. According to reports, one in every three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner. There was no tweet thread for this. Nobody was fighting for better legislation at the time. It was just a headline that was replaced the next day by another.


Consent is a word that has recently been added to everyone's dictionary. It is more than necessary to request permission. But, like everything else, it has become a topic for memes. Violent comments circulate, undermining the importance of consent. Many see it as a 'agenda' to destabilise India's marriage system and target men.


We'll have to wait and see if marital rape becomes a crime. However, gender-neutral rape legislation is desperately needed. Men should be targeted and violated as well. "I am not free while any woman is unfree, even if her shackles are very different from mine," author Audre Lorde wrote“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” A gender-neutral society needs better laws.  We still have a long way to go as a society. Uplifting women and creating an equal society with equal opportunities and respect may sound like a pipe dream, but it is attainable if we all work together.


Proving marital rape is not easy; it would be a challenge for the womanFlavia Agnes


How can females seek help regarding marital rape?

To answer this, Flavia Agnes, lawyer and founder of women's legal aid group Majlis, provides a contrary view in an interview with Ranjita Ganesan. Edited Excerpts:


1. In your view, should marital rape be criminalised?

Is marital rape considered sexual violence? It's definitely a part of it, in my opinion. When a woman claims she has been sexually violated, it is often in conjunction with the husband refusing to give her money or beating her. It sounds sensational to say that India needs to act. But what is India to do? In some cases, the wife who is being abused may not want a divorce; she may simply want a place to live. Criminalizing does not provide her with this relief. In addition, conviction rates in simple rape cases are extremely low. It is higher in victims under the age of ten. It reaches a low point between the ages of 15 and 18. It only gets worse from there. When a woman claims that her boyfriend has abused her, the conviction rate is dismal.


2. So, what options are currently available to women who have been raped by their husbands?

Cruelty is defined in the Domestic Violence Act in a variety of ways, including economic violence, such as not giving money to the wife, physical violence, such as beating, and emotional violence, such as humiliating her body or her parents. Then there's sexual violence. Domestic violence is a civil law that provides you with recourse. Women have the right to seek protection and maintenance, as well as a restraining order against their husbands. Furthermore, cruelty is defined as any type of physical, mental, or emotional harassment under Section 498(a) of the Indian Penal Code. Making dowry demands is punishable under explanation 'b' of the same section. It carries a three-year prison sentence and is dealt with in a magistrate's court. The magistrate's court is also the venue for proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act.


3. What difficulties do you anticipate in enforcing the law if marital rape is criminalised?

The woman will have to go to the sessions court to present her case. She must demonstrate that sex occurred without her consent on that particular night, that she was not in the mood for it, or that he forced her after she had gone to sleep, or that she was ill. That will be difficult.


Lawyers could also take advantage of this. They will demand large sums of money from the victim in order to file such cases. That is exactly what we are witnessing today. This depletes the woman's financial resources. The lawyers also tell her that if she files rape charges, the husband will choose to settle, but the husband frequently fights to prove her wrong.


Men's groups are demanding that the woman pay compensation under 498(a) if the complaint is proven false. This demand will also be made in the case of marital rape laws. All of this has done nothing to help women.


4. Some organisations argue that marital rape laws can be misused by women. What are your thoughts?

Even with 498, we hear allegations like this all the time (a). Men's rights activists want the law to be weakened or made equal so that they can file cases as well. So you have a law in place that isn't being used because of all the misinformation. It has resulted in a situation in which women do not file complaints and police refuse to file cases under these laws.


5. What alternatives to criminalization do you propose?

Campaigners believe that if one law fails, another will be enacted. We don't need a change in the law; we need a shift in mindset. It should be addressed under 498(a) and the Domestic Violence Act, so that women are protected. If a woman is being abused, file a case under those laws and let's see how things go. Why doesn't it work if it doesn't work? That is what we must concentrate on.


6. What is the international situation in terms of marital rape laws?

It is hardly ever used. They don't have to deal with allegations of mistreatment because, under their legal system, men and women are equal and can both file cases.


7. What are your expectations as criminalisation is being considered in the criminal justice system review?

If this happens, there will be outrage among men's rights organisations. They will soon label it a terrorist law, citing the issue of misuse, as they have done with other laws I have mentioned.


A male social worker in Mumbai educates women about sexual consent

Anand Suryavanshi, a social worker, holds workshops for female victims of violence in the narrow streets of Mumbai's largest slum. He teaches them about their legal rights, as well as the importance of consent.


A discreet poster inside a women's communal toilet block in Dharavi advertises a 24-hour hotline for victims of violence, including marital rape.


It's a delicate situation. Despite the fact that India has become a more modern, middle-income economy in recent decades, certain antiquated gender attitudes persist, even among women. Suryavanshi suspects that some of the women he teaches in his workshops may agree with men's rights activists on the issue of marital rape more than with feminists.


"When it comes to sexual violence – or any other form of violence, for that matter – older women over the age of 50 are not ready to accept it. Their mindset differs from that of the younger women. It is extremely difficult to change their minds, to persuade them that the world is changing "he claims.


Suryavanshi works for SNEHA, a Mumbai-based non-profit whose programme to prevent violence against women and children is directed by Daruwalla. They have a team of mostly female social workers as well as community volunteers. They work with 5,000 households in Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, which was featured in the 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire.


Suryavanshi has posted a hotline phone number on the wall of a local shop where the poor go to receive government food rations, as well as in the women's communal toilet area of Dharavi, to reach women who aren't comfortable talking about sexual violence in person. So that women can report violence or ask questions anonymously to SNEHA.


A Dharavi resident recently called to report that her husband had smashed a mirror over her head. Sangeeta Dongre, a hotline volunteer who answered the woman's panicked call, recalls that she was bleeding profusely.


"My husband and I went over to her house and drove her to the hospital. Her neck had been slashed by shards of glass. On the floor, there was a pool of blood "Dongre remembers.


Dongre explains that the woman survived. She, on the other hand, refused to press charges against her husband.


It demonstrates how difficult it is for women in India to report domestic violence. Experts say it's even more difficult to persuade them to report marital rape.


"There is a lot of resistance among women about marital rape," Suryavanshi says. "Many of them don't think it's a big deal."


The Delhi High Court is expected to rule on petitions to criminalise marital rape in India within weeks or months. It has also requested input from India's parliament. Even if a significant legal or legislative change occurs, cultural change may take much longer.


How can females seek help regarding marital rape?

What can help

For the victim:

• Friends and family can be a great source of comfort and support for the victim.
• Shelters can provide a temporary safe haven. Shelter staff may also be able to assist by pointing out options to consider.
• Hotlines provide immediate assistance as well as referrals to social service agencies.
• Legal aid services can provide free legal information or assistance at a low cost.
• Support groups can be beneficial because they allow victims to talk with other people who have experienced partner abuse.


In the community:

• Demonstrate your support for strict enforcement of existing laws as well as new legislation to combat domestic and sexual violence.
• Local, state, and national educational and prevention programmes should be supported.


At home:

• Set an example for your children.
• Teach them through your actions that violence and abuse are not acceptable in the family.
• If you and your partner are unable to resolve issues, seek professional assistance. It is not always possible to resolve disagreements on your own.
• Seeking assistance is an indication of strength, not weakness. Get help on your own if necessary.
• Disagreements can be resolved through discussion. Speaking isn't always easy, but the benefits are well worth the effort.



The continued exclusion of marital rape from criminal law upholds the husband's assumption of the wife as his exclusive property. It is acknowledged that changing the law on sexual offences is a difficult and delicate task, especially in a country like India, where there is a diverse and differentiated system of personal and religious laws that may conflict with the new amendments to the statutory criminal law.


Can the state really infiltrate the home? Yes, the answer is "yes." It already does in cases of cruelty, divorce, and dowry demands, so why leave the most heinous and atrocious crime outside the purview of the State and its laws? Why is marital rape still considered beyond the pale? The immediate need is for marital rape to be criminalised under the Indian Penal Code. However, simply declaring conduct to be an offence is insufficient. More needs to be done to educate the judiciary and law enforcement. There is also a need to educate the general public about this crime, as the true goal of criminalising marital rape can only be achieved if society recognises and challenges the prevalent myth that rape by one's spouse is insignificant.









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