Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Marital Rape: A tweetchat on Day 6

by Michelle James

Marital rape is NOT a criminal offence under the IPC (Indian Penal Code). In fact, Section 375 of the IPC that criminalises rape as sexual intercourse without consent, actually makes an exception to rape within a marriage; it says, "Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape."

On Day 6 of the 2016 Prajnya 16 Days Campaign Against Gender Violence, we decided to do a chat on twitter about marital rape, whether or not it should be criminalised, and the issues around implementing the law if marital rape is criminalised.

The discussion was flagged off by questions about marriage being viewed as a sacred vow, and how almost anything is permissible under it – violence, rape, abuse. Many questions were raised: Does Indian culture reject the idea of consent? What happens after criminalisation of marital rape?

But a recurring argument against criminalising marital rape was: Will the law be misused?

Building into the patriarchal notion that when a woman reports sexual violence from her partner, she is inherently lying to seek vengeance, this is a question that gets asked again and again. And our answer is consistent: just because a law can be misused (which is true of any law), is not reason for the law to not exist.

The question of the rural-urban divide also came up. Is marital rape a rural issue?

Reported cases suggests it is not. Rape happens not because of the lack of awareness. Rape is an act of sexual violence to perpetrate power and dominance over the victim. A gift of inherent patriarchy.
Another point of discussion was if divorce is the answer to rape. What about justice for the victim?

Many voiced the opinion that Sexual and reproductive health and rights education is the need of the hour. Suggestions were to make “consent” a part of school curriculum.

There were many questions, answers and suggestions, even from “Men's Rights Activists”. But this chat opened us up to the various opinions on marital rape and the assumption of perpetual consent in marriage.
We closed the chat in the hope that we have created a small yet important dialogue regarding marital rape. To think, ponder and maybe, in the future, lobby for criminalising marital rape because rape is rape. Sex without consent. Our definitions matter. Our mindsets matter. Our opinions matter.

Read the full chat here.

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