Government’s refusal to criminalise marital rape has been termed as “regressive” by several women rights activists but experts supporting the Centre’s stand feel there is no need to tinker with the law as it might be “misused” by some to settle scores.
The issue, which did not garner favour from the Supreme Court, has triggered a fresh debate in the wake of Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary’s statement in Parliament that the concept of marital rape cannot be applied in India where marriage is considered as a “sacrament”.
“Parliament is being regressive about it. Even Justice J S Verma Committee had recommended criminalising marital rape. India is ready but Parliament is not,” senior advocate Rebecca John said. Her view was shared by activists Ranjana Kumari and Vrinda Grover who vouched for a law protecting married women from forced sex with their spouse.
They said lawmakers do not want to give women their right against exploitation, even at the hands of their husbands.
However, this view did not find favour with some jurists who said criminalisation of marital rape will be “dangerous” in today’s scenario where instances of false implications of husband and in-laws by women are in abundance.
Two retired judges — S N Dhingra and R S Sodhi — of the Delhi High Court said it will trigger misuse of law by women to settle scores.
Differing with them and supporting the women activists, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who took up the issue in the apex court, alleged the government was headed by “men with anti-women thinking”.
“Our government is conservative, anti-social and backward looking. It is headed by men with anti-women thinking,” he alleged, and asked “when there is law to protect women against domestic violence, then why can’t there be one for marital rape?”
According to a UN report — ‘The 2011 Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice report’ — marital rape is an offence in 52 countries, including the US, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Denmark and France