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-Mayank Gurnani

Ever wondered why fairy tales always seem to start with “Once upon a time in a land far away”? It’s probably because a tale based in this age would have the evil winning over good. A story with more demons than fairies would perfectly depict our world right now.

In our country, crimes are being hushed up by the police personnel and the victims who are sometimes intimidated by the powerful status of the criminals. But the crimes that we are talking about, have laws to show the ethical stance that the country has taken against them. But there exists certain acts which go against all our moral values, yet have no laws to protect the victims. One such issue that has been ignored for way too long is marital rape. It is a social problem that isn’t addressed as often as it should be because it hasn’t become a part of our moral consciousness. Like a lot of social problems, it is revolted against only when a case comes under the scanner of the media. But eventually the heat dies down and the issue is forgotten. The constitution fails to include a law against it.

Arguments against criminalisation of marital rape often revolve around the “culture” of our country. They debate that people of our country believe in the “sanctity” of the custom of marriage and hence cannot come up with a law against what happens behind the closed doors of a marriage even if it’s non-consensual sex. At a time when women’s rights campaigns are in full swing, it is very alarming that this issue isn’t voiced enough. There are also people who question the possibility of people reporting this, even if there was such a law. These people should think about those who are ready to break the “norms” and file a case against their spouse, even if they are few in number.

The law in our constitution states that “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape”. This law is extremely flawed as justice is differentiated based on the victim’s age but not the crime on the whole. Rape is rape, no matter what the age of the victim is or what their relationship with their perpetrator. The “No means No” campaign should apply even to marital rape as a  wedding certificate does not imply that one person in a marriage has a complete right over another’s body.

Over half of the women surveyed two years ago said they had experienced some form of sexual violence by a partner. And 60 per cent of the men questioned in the same survey admitted to perpetrating sexual abuse against a partner, according to the study con- ducted by the International Centre for Research on Women and the United Nations Population Fund.

On March 10, 2016, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as under- stood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mind-set of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc.” It is this ideology that should change.

The era of vote-bank politics has made leaders a people-pleasing bunch. But it is import- ant that the right decision be taken without sit- ting to consider how many people it would offend.

The first step to fight against this evil should be to spread awareness about the absence of such a law. An amendment in the constitution is necessary as it is an issue of human rights violation. It is also important to change the mentality of the people who look at this as going against the culture of our country.

This problem isn’t centred to a particular class, caste or creed which makes it a widespread crime and difficult to curb. We have constantly been trying to battle the social evil of rape and there have still been more than 34000 reported cases in 2015 alone. It makes one wonder how long before we term it as an offence as the road to abolishing it seems a long road ahead.

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