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What Is Marital Rape And Do We As A Society Need To Rethink The Concept Of It

Recently, the trailer of an upcoming Bollywood movie Pati, Patni aur Woh has stirred some controversy and received criticism on the internet. Kartik Aryan, the lead actor in the movie, was shown complaining about his sex-deprived married life.

In a scene, his dialogues were, "Biwi se sex maang lein toh hum bikhaari. Biwi ko sex na de toh hum atyachaari. Aur kisi tarah jugaad laga ke usse sex haasil kar le na toh balaatkari bhi hum hai. (If we ask our wives for sex, then we're called beggars; if we deny them sex, then we're called torturers; and if we coerce them into having sex with us, we're called rapists)."

This has not gone down well with the netizens and some are even calling this film sexist. This has also sparked outrage because, in a country like India where non-consensual sex between a husband and wife is not considered a criminal offence, dialogues like these can send the wrong message to the audience.

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Under Section 375 in The Indian Penal Code, a person who commits all kinds of sexual assault with a woman, including non-consensual intercourse will be termed as a rapist. However, there is an exception mentioned under the same section, which immunises the non-consensual sexual intercourse between a husband and wife from prosecution. Strange, isn't it? Well, let's delve deep into this and understand it better.

What Is Marital Rape?

Marital rape or spousal rape is the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the spouse's consent. If a spouse is trying to have sexual intercourse without the consent of their partner, then it can be termed as marital rape.

Unfortunately, it is not seen as rape in India, especially in the case of women. Thanks to the patriarchal and orthodox mindset of our society where women are obliged to give perpetual consent allowing their spouses to have sexual intercourse with her. This mindset has somewhere shackled the judiciary of our country from taking strict action against marital rape.

However, it is seen as a criminal offence in many other countries including the UK and the US. Though India is a country that promotes equality among its every citizens, unfortunately, it discriminates married women from having her rights when it comes to sexual intercourse in marriage.

Perhaps the definition of rape doesn't consider the fact that if an action taken against a woman makes her feel violated, then it is a crime, irrespective of whether it is committed by a stranger or by her husband. Being married to a man doesn't mean that a woman is not supposed to have her control over the sexual intercourse established between her and the husband.

During the trial of a similar case in Delhi High Court, two reasons were given for not criminalising the marital rape. The first reason says, "Marriage is sacred and the criminalization of this act in the Indian context would lead to the destabilization of society." [1]

Second reason states, "It should not be criminalized because of the huge number of fraudulent cases that may be filed against husbands." [1] We can say that the government officials might think that what a woman sees as a marital rape doesn't seem the same to others.

If the idea of not criminalising marital rape is to protect the sacred institution of marriage, then people should understand that a marriage where either of the spouses doesn't respect the dignity and modesty of other spouse, can't be a happy and healthy marriage. A time may come when the two individuals might part their ways or do something which can have worse consequences.

Coming back to the discussion about Kartik Aryan complaining about being a rapist for coercing wife for sex is completely pointless. For that reason, if you are forcing your spouse for having sexual intercourse or trying to have sex without the consent of your spouse means you are being a rapist and complaining about the same is totally irrelevant.

Also read: Want To Catch Your Cheating Spouse Red-Handed? 8 Tips That Will Help You

People must understand that a marriage will withstand the test of time only if the man and the woman have love, faith, mutual respect and care about each other.

View Article References
  1. [1] 1. Rajan Ahana, India's Marital Rape Problem. International Policy Digest, Retrieved from on 8 November 2019.
Story first published: Friday, November 8, 2019, 16:35 [IST]