Pointing to the Woman and Child Development Ministry’s silence on the issue of marital rape in its Draft National Policy for Women 2016, the National Commission for Women (NCW) has said that marital rape should be recognised under the law.
In the light of the recent debate over abolishing triple talaq, the NCW has also objected to the ministry’s vaguely worded stand on the issue of personal laws in its recently released draft policy that states “given the plurality of personal laws a review is required”. The NCW has held that “the problem is not plurality”, adding that uniformity is not the answer but what is required is a reform of personal laws to ensure gender equality.
“The draft policy doesn’t have any reference to the issue of marital rape. Following our detailed consultations with lawyers, activists, rural women and women with disabilities, we decided to recommend to the ministry that the policy must acknowledge marital rape. Unless a beginning is made by recognising marital rape in the policy, we cannot go ahead and make laws to protect women from such offences,” NCW chief Lalitha Kumaramangalam told The Indian Express.
The WCD Ministry had given a reply in the Rajya Sabha earlier this year which read that “the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context” and that criminalising it will put “the entire family system will be under great stress”. Following the backlash against WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi after the statement, the ministry retracted its reply to the Rajya Sabha. The ministry’s amended answer only said that matter is being examined by the Law Commission without specifying the ministry’s stand on the matter of criminalising the act.
On the issue of triple talaq too, the WCD ministry has chosen to not take any stand so far even as the NCW has decided to file a reply, in the Supreme Court matter of Uttarakhand-based Shayara Bano, in support of banning the practice.
“Triple talaq cannot be unilateral. Even the Quran doesn’t recognise such a practice. But uniform civil code is not the solution. What is required is codification of the Muslim personal law. There has been resistance in the past when reforms were taken up in the Hindu and Parsi personal laws but such a codification is much required,” said Kumaramangalam.
The NCW has, in its correspondence to the WCD ministry on the draft policy, said “all personal laws foster gender-inequality in one form or another”. Ruling out uniformity as the answer, it states that what is required are “reforms based on gender-equality within personal laws of different kinds”.
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