The Delhi High Court on Monday agreed to hear a plea by an NGO, representing men victimised by alleged misuse of gender laws, opposing several petitions to make marital rape a criminal offence. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar allowed the intervention application by NGO, Men Welfare Trust, and allowed it to address the court.
The court was hearing petitions seeking declaration of Section 375 (offence of rape) of the IPC as unconstitutional on the ground that it discriminated against married women being sexually assaulted by their husbands.
The hearing in the matter would continue on Tuesday.
Marital rape (or spousal rape) is an act in which one of the spouses indulges in sexual intercourse without the consent of the other.
The NGO said the issue affected a large number of men who were “vulnerable” in getting victimised at the hands of women who file “false” rape and domestic violence cases.
“The applicant (NGO) wishes to argue that the existing laws are very much capable of dealing with the cases of sexual abuse of women and there is no need to either bring a fresh law to deal with it, nor is there a requirement to withdraw the protection granted to husbands provided under Section 375 of the IPC,” the plea, filed through NGO’s president Amit Lakhani and vice president Ritwik Bisaria, said.
It claimed that when a person gets married, he or she gives consent to the spouse to have sex and any such sexual act cannot be termed as rape.
If there is physical harm to either of the parties, then it may be called sexual assault for which there are laws already in place, it said, adding that in case of divorce or separation, the woman effectively withdraws her consent for having sexual relations with her estranged husband.
“A mere comparison between the marriages solemnised in the Indian and western societies makes it clear that in Indian society, marriage is considered to be a sacred relationship with aim to procreate and lead a happy married life. The marriages in the western world are considered to be a contract between the husband and the wife.
“Accordingly, the concept of ‘marital rape’ cannot apply in Indian context. And if there is an abuse of sexual nature, Indian laws have already provided a remedy to deal with it,” the plea said.
It claimed removal of protection given to husbands under section 375 IPC that did not consider sexual intercourse with a minor wife above 15 years of age as rape, will result in a law of such nature that the chances of its misuse will be so high that “innocent husbands shall be left with no remedy and would be subjected to cruelty on part of wives”.
Citing the statistics of National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), the plea said 62,000 married men commit suicide every year, which is more than double the suicides by women, with domestic including martial issues being the single largest reason.
This makes “India as the suicide capital of the world,” it claimed.
The high court had earlier asked the Centre to spell out its stand on petitions seeking to make marital rape a criminal offence.
It has agreed to examine the issue raised in PILs by NGOs RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association and a man and a woman, who have sought striking down of the exception in the Indian penal law that did not consider sexual intercourse with a minor wife, above 15 years of age, as rape.
The exception in section 375 of the IPC which deals with the offence of rape, was brought by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, which was enacted after the horrific gangrape case of December 16, 2012.
Earlier, the Centre had defended its legislation, saying child marriages were taking place in India and the decision to retain a girl’s minimum age as 15 years to marry was taken under the amended rape law to protect a couple against criminalisation of their sexual activity.