Crime & Justice

In India, a battle drags on to end rights of men to rape their wives

By Indira Guerrero

New Delhi, May 5 (EFE).- In India, sex against the will and consent of women is rape except when the perpetrator is a husband.

The Indian Penal Code, dating back to 1860, considers marriage an irrevocable consent to sex, a license that several women are now seeking to revoke.

A woman wrote in an anonymous note to a non-profit that her husband thought “it would be sexy to resolve the fight with hate sex.”

“So when I screamed for help because I did not want his weight over me, crushing down my hopes and my right to choose, it all dissolved into nothingness just because he was my partner. So, consent was given. Anytime, anywhere,” the woman wrote to Chitra Awasthi, the president of the non-profit RIT Foundation.

The foundation claims it is fighting to promote social and gender equality in India, one among 36 countries that have not criminalized marital rape.

In 2015, Awasthi filed a petition with the Indian courts to amend the exception in Article 375 of the Penal Code that allows non-consensual sexual intercourse by the husband with his wife as long as she is over 18.

The legal battle drags on against the mentality of a society that suppresses the voices and determination of women.

The case against Article 375 of the Indian Penal Code has been in the Delhi High Court for more than six years, locked in a fierce debate between the litigants and an indifferent society struggling to empower its women.

Awasthi is willing to take the fight to the top court in India, but for the activist, the real crusade is not only to amend the law but to “change the mentality.”

Labeling all men or husbands as criminals is not the way to go, Awasthi told EFE in an interview.

She says the problem lies with a social system that does not consider the abuse of his wife by the husband as rape.

“When a man rapes an outside woman, the law is there, the dignity of women is there, the rights are there, but with his own wife, (society thinks that) she is his, he has already had sex with her so many times, (and) it is not a crime,” she said.

“They do not equate rape with marital rape. It is a mentality.”

Even the women do not understand that something is wrong even though they know it is something against their will.

“They had not thought about it until now, they think: I hate this but I have to do it because I am the wife,” Awasthi said.

Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests that a woman in India is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from anyone else.

The data is just a glimpse of how vulnerable a woman is in her own home, given that most crimes go unreported, and some cases, such as marital rape, are not even considered a crime.

Even so, authorities recorded one in three crimes against women in India in 2019, out of 405,861, as cruelty by husbands or their relatives, the NCRB data showed.

The National Family Health Survey of 2015-16, for the first time, collected data on violence committed by the husband.

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