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THE NEED TO REFRAME LAWS REGARDING MARITAL RAPE

Article by Pranjal Singh

Student at National Law University

and Judicial Academy, Assam


Marital Rape or Spousal rape is an act of sexual intercourse with one’s wife without consent, lack of consent is the main factor and it need not be physical violence. Marital rape is considered a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse. This form of domestic violence has formed the part of growing international attention still in India it has not been designated a form of crime.


In India, it is understood that the concept of marital rape as understood internationally cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education, poverty myriad social customs, and values, religious beliefs and the mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament the argument is that there are too little education and too many beliefs in Indian society which often stalls legal reforms. The principal objection to the criminalization of marital rape lies in western society.[1] It originates in the common law principles such as covertures the idea that women are always under the protection of the husband.

The Justice J.S Verma committee called for marital rape to be criminal although it was not implemented. The present Indian law exempts non-consensual sex between a husband and a wife not being less than fifteen years of age from being charged with rape, however, it is a criminal offense if the wife is living separately and is raped then it will be a crime. Justice Verma noted, “stems from the long-outdated notion of marriage which regarded wives as no more than the property of their husbands”[2]. Marital rape ought to be a crime, of course, there will be obligations to the perceived threat to martial integrity, but numbers don’t lie and marital rape exists.


The very act of rape is so heinous that there should be no debate on whether or not we must have a law against it, just because a law could be abused does not mean that there shouldn’t be law, by that logic most laws are abused, does that mean they all shouldn’t exist?[3] This is a frivolous excuse to deny women autonomy over their bodies. The centre argues that a law against marital rape may destabilize marriage, but what about the fact that marital rape could affect a woman psychologically and could destabilize her mentality. Is such a marriage worth staying in? According to section 375 of the IPC, rape means having sexual intercourse with a woman against her will or without her consent, the exception to this cannot be understood, how it is different if it is by a man who is her husband? How convenient this exception is for a male-dominated society that otherwise keeps shouting about the empowerment of women. The centre’s silly justification, that if bought under an ambit of crime a marital rape law will be misused, is not worth it. Advanced civilized societies have no such exceptions in their rape laws as we do, India sadly shares space with backward nations in propagating such mindset.

[1] Satyaki Das, Why marital rape must be a crime, The Hindu (Mar 15, 2016, 12:36 PM), https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/criminalising-marital-rape-and-maneka-gandhi/article8352904.ece.

[2] The J.S. Verma Committee Report, 2013 [3] Kalpana Sharma, Why isn’t marital rape a criminal offence in India?, Times of India (Nov 23, 2017, 03:07 PM), https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/relationships/love-sex/Why-isnt-marital-rape-a-criminal-offence-in-India/articleshow/54223996.cms. Image Source: https://bit.ly/2MzOniK

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