Crime & Justice

India court gives split verdict on criminalizing marital rape

New Delhi, May 11 (EFE).- An Indian court Wednesday gave a split verdict on marital rape, thus avoiding a definite ruling on criminalizing sex against the will and consent of a woman by the husband.

Disappointed with the decision, the petitioners have decided to approach the top court, seeking criminalization of marital rape.

Two judges of the Delhi high court could not agree if it indeed is a crime for husbands to have sex with their wives against their will.

One of the judges ruled in favor and the other against the petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of Article 375 of the Indian Penal Code, giving immunity to the husband to have sexual relations with his wife, even without her consent, provided she is over 18.

“We are disappointed by the split verdict of the New Delhi High Court on marital rape,” the international organization Equality Now said in a statement.

Equality Now called it a “missed opportunity” to decide on “a critical issue affecting women in India.”

“Consent to marry should never be understood as consent for life to have sexual relations. Allowing unpunished rape within marriage treats women as the property of their husbands.”

The petitions on making marital rape a crime would be heard by a larger bench of the Delhi high court or by the Supreme Court.

Karuna Nundy, one of the lawyers for the petitioners, said that the verdict was “a blot on the face of (the) constitution.”

“This is a blot on the face of this country, married women should not have … to say that I am forever giving away my voice, my right over my body, and my right to sexual autonomy,” Nundy told local broadcaster NDTV.

India is one among 36 countries that have not criminalized marital rape, and the battle challenges a patriarchal mindset that suppresses women’s rights.

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.

The data shows that 52 percent of women and 42 percent of men believe that it was justified for a husband to hit his wife under various circumstances, like leaving the house without his permission. EFE


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