What is marriage? Our culture describes it as a sacred institution, its very sanctity is what our tradition preaches of. But it’s a matter of great plight that even today in some parts of the world, behind the closed doors and the drawn in curtains, marriage is primarily just a contract for legal sex. She is your wife and now nobody is going to question you, neither she herself. But what our men need to remember is that just because she said “I do” once doesn’t mean you never have to ask again. A woman not saying no is not a woman saying yes.
Rape, a word that we all are familiar with. A heinous act of forced sexual intercourse including vaginal, anal or oral penetration. It’s a depiction of power over the victim by sexual assault. It is a disgusting act criminalized in all nations. Rape is considered a violent crime and carries heavy sentences, even for a first offense. Depending on the circumstances, rape may be punishable by several years up to a life sentence. On the other hand marriage is a holy union of two people promising to spend the rest of their lives with each other. It is a sacred bond of love, togetherness and sharing of responsibilities. Now lets just put the two words together. One that is purely sacred and the other that is purely horrific. Marriage and rape. Marital Rape. But how many of us are actually familiar with the term “marital rape”? How many of us know what it really means? And how many of the ones who know about it actually feel that it should be criminalized?
So many questions and such less answers. But that’s how our country is. Neither are we encouraged to ask questions nor are we encouraged to seek their answers. We escape whatever feels uncomfortable or awkward. The truth is that according to statistics most of the men in India, in fact many parts of the world for that matter don’t even consider this as something wrong or offensive. Providing sex to the husband is considered as a part of the marital duties of a woman. But the truth is that we are a country terribly hobbled by ignorance and custom. Hence people in general believe that taking her consent is not even important here. And that the man has a right on his woman and her body. Only because they are married. It is estimated that only 1% of rapes are actually reported. It is believed that women in India are 40% more likely to experience rape from their husband than by a stranger. It is also estimated that 10% of women in India experience sexual violence.
More often than not the answer is “But when we are married, how is it rape?”Even women are confused about this concept. Marital rape is nothing but rape. And a rape is rape, regardless of whether it is committed by a husband, father-in-law, uncle or stranger. Marital rape in fact is even worse than rape for that matter, because these are the women who get raped the entire night and then get up to make breakfast for their rapists the immediate next morning. There are wolves all around the street but these men are the real wolves that hide in the costume of sheep in the houses itself. Approximations have quoted that every 6 hours; a young married woman is burnt or beaten to death, or driven to suicide from emotional abuse by her husband.
Over 100 countries have criminalized marital rape. The revolution started with women activists in America raising their voices in the 1970s for elimination of marital rape exemption clause and extension of guarantee of equal protection to women. The countries that haven’t are Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc to name a few. On one hand we try to live up to the fast paced growth and development of the leading superpowers and advanced countries like the US and UK and Canada but when it comes to treating our women we are in the company of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan. Section 375, the provision of rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), has echoing very archaic sentiments, mentioned as its exception clause- “Sexual intercourse by man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.” On having raised the issue of criminalizing marital rape, our law and the so called authorities claim that in a country like India criminalizing marital rape is not possible because of illiteracy, poverty, and the very sanctity of marriage. What does this even mean? The poor households are allowed to treat their women like sex objects? Is illiteracy a perfect veil to hide behind and perform any kind of heinous act that you want to? To say that the institution of marriage will be threatened by such a law is to either underestimate the very real affections, bonds and negotiations that hold good marriages together despite deep disagreements and differences, or to accept that sexual abuse and coercion is so common in marriages that no man dares risk such a law.
One of the major issue fueling marital rapes is the taboo associated to sex in our society. Societies such as India that condemn and penalize sex outside of marriage often force men into marital relationships only for free access to physical consummation, which puts women under incredible sexual threat. In many parts of our country women are married to men who derive lust from the pain, who bypass the innocent consent that she thinks of being prevalent in their relationship. Her relationship with her husband is subjected to more of physicality and the bodily pleasures than being touched with the eternal bliss and bloom of the vows she took as the very steps of her life with him.
Ignorance is bliss, they say. But in this mad world that we live in, bliss means our women are being subjected to torturous physical abuse and are raped by their very own husband in the name of marriage. The same husband she had put all her faith in and took the holy vows with has become her criminal. The one who was supposed to protect her from anything and everything wrong as he had vowed to when he married her is now the very person responsible for her misery. But technically bliss will be when our men will show sensitivity towards their wives. When there won’t even be a need to criminalize marital rape, because it won’t exist. The sacred institution of marriage will be given the due respect it deserves. Men won’t have right over the body of their wives but will instead respect her choice. That is what the true meaning of bliss is. And that is when we can choose to be ignorant.