Earlier this week, in an affidavit to the Delhi High Court, the Centre argued against criminalising marital rape on the ground that it “may destabilise the institution of marriage apart from being an easy tool for harassing the husbands”. But does the government really understand the magnitude of this problem?
A bunch of petitions before the High Court wanted marital rape to be legally recognised and made a punitive offence. On August 10, the Supreme Court had reiterated the exception laid down in Section 375 IPC and stated that physical intercourse by a man with his wife not below 15 years is not constituted as rape, irrespective of “with or without” consent.
“As to what constitutes marital rape and what would constitute marital non-rape needs to be defined precisely before a view on its criminalisation is taken,” the Centre’s affidavit said. It went on to cite the “rising misuse of Section 498A of IPC”, commonly known as the dowry law, to demonstrate how laws dealing with violence against women can be misused “for harassing the husbands”.
However, the apex court’s landmark judgment underlining privacy as a fundamental right last week generated hope in many for progressive verdicts especially in cases pertaining to homosexuality (Section 377) and marital rape (Section 375) pending in various courts.
In this context, indianexpress.com perused the reports of the National Family Health Survey containing detailed figures of sexual violence faced by ever-married women from their husbands across different parameters. While the 2005-06 survey is extensive and lists figures of married women who have faced spousal sexual violence, the next report, that came out in 2015-16, only lists spousal violence and does not go into the details of supposed marital rape. The 2005-06 survey highlights data sub-categorised by age, education, employment, religion, caste/tribe, wealth index, marital status, forms of sexual violence, marital duration, number of children and household structure.
The survey shockingly points out a mean average of 10.46% of ever-married women across age-groups complaining of sexual violence from their husbands.
Calling out the persistent dichotomy regarding the age of consent, the 2005-06 data presents the highest percentage of women victims of spousal sexual violence under the 15-19 years age bracket (13.1 per cent). While 10.5 % of women in the age bracket of 20-24 experienced sexual violence from their husbands, in the next bracket of 25-29, the percentage of women falls marginally to 10.4%. The lowest percentage of women having suffered spousal sexual violence is reported in the 40-49 age group (8.2%).
Ten per cent of women reported being physically forced to have sexual intercourse and five per cent saying she was forced to perform sexual acts she did not want to perform. More married women reported sexual violence in rural areas (11.2%) as opposed to urban areas (7.3%).
While a total of 62,652 married women were surveyed, at least 36.7 per cent of them reported physical or sexual violence from their husbands and 9.7% reported just sexual violence.
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In terms of education of women surveyed, the highest percentage of those who reported spousal sexual violence had no access to education (12.5%). The survey showed educated women were less prone to sexual violence from their husbands. Interestingly, the less educated the husbands were, more were they prone to engage in sexual violence with their wives, the survey showed. Married men, who are alcoholic and who drink very often, (23.6%) are more likely to indulge in sexual violence with their wives, according to the survey.