Brutally gang raped by six men, she succumbed to injuries. The angry protests that followed were unprecedented in the history of Independent India.
A few months ago, a 6-year-old girl was raped by a teacher in a private school in Bangalore. There was more outrage.
More recently, a young woman was raped by a cab driver on her way back home from Gurgaon. Not surprisingly, there was a media overkill on the incident and Facebook and Twitter were filled with denunciation and criticism.
But when a woman in Uttar Pradesh was raped by her husband and his two friends recently, the same media didn’t give it much coverage and there wasn’t any sign of criticism by the public, even on social networks.
It seems we Indians never depict any outrage or protest against a case of marital rape. And there are many such cases. In November, a woman in Jaipur registered a case against her husband alleging that he raped her for two years after their marriage. But again, it didn’t spark off even the slightest fury from anyone.
Under the Indian Penal Code, marital rape is not covered by the ordinary rape laws and is a form of non-criminal domestic violence. Also, according to IPC Section 375, which says that sexual intercourse or sexual acts by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape; in fact exempts spouses from prosecution except in cases of legal separation.
According to a recent gender study conducted by International Centre for Research on Women and United Nations Family and Population Fund in India, 1 out of every 3 husbands admitted to forced sexual acts on their wives. Additionally, the National Family Health Survey data states that 97.6% of sexual violence acts on women are committed by husbands.
In spite of the horrific prevalence of marital rapes in our society, it is appalling that we turn our back on it and keep mum. Just because marital rape is not punishable by law, does it mean that we silently accept it? The big names of the Indian Internet era didn’t adhere to the same principles of silence when Section 377 was criminalised by the Supreme Court. They still protested, campaigned on the streets, wrote letters to politicians and expressed solidarity with queer people. Isn’t this also a worthy case for their attention.
The big names of the Indian Internet era didn’t adhere to the same principles of silence when Section 377 was criminalised by the Supreme Court. They still protested, campaigned on the streets, wrote letters to politicians and expressed solidarity with queer people. Isn’t this also a worthy case for their attention.
Personally, I have seen numerous friends sharing Facebook statuses about expressing solidarity for the December 16 and other rape victims, but when it comes to marriage, they think that a husband has a birth right to his wife’s body and marital rape is just a misnomer.
Therefore, this leaves no room for doubt that despite calling ourselves modern and vociferously censuring the government for not being able to ensure the safety of women, we fundamentally remain a patriarchal society. We remain wary of protesting and raising our voice against marital rape in the fear that it might expose our own darker selves.