Marriage is no license for sex without consent, say Delhiites

Legal Women

‘Forced sex  damages a relationship’

Shilpa Singh from Delhi has been married for 20 years. She says she has never been abused by her husband, but knows people who have abusive husbands. 

“Not every marriage is based on love and consent. There shouldn’t be an exception for husbands when it comes to forced sexual intercourse with the wife,” she informed The Observer in context of the recent Delhi High Court verdict on marital rape.

A two-judge bench of the High Court on May 11 delivered a split verdict on petitions seeking the criminalization of marital rape. The matter will now go to the Supreme Court for further deliberations.

Shivani Kaul, another Delhi resident, said: “It’s sad to see that in 2022 some of us are defending marital rape. Consent is extremely important. Just because one gets married, it doesn’t automatically provide one with a free pass to force themselves on their partner. It paves a path towards misogyny and is unfair to women who are victims of domestic abuse in their households.”

Nishit Arora, another resident, said marriage does not mean consent. “Sex without consent can be termed abuse and violence on the wife. Nobody should have to go through that.”

About the different views of the two High Court judges, Amit Vohra, a lawyer at the Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi, said: “One judge says forcible sexual intercourse with wife above 18 years is rape and declared exception as unconstitutional; the other says that as per exception in law, it’s not rape.

“Consent is fundamental in all marital relationships. You can’t force yourself on others just because you want sex . It damages relationships . In relationships, consent is important; but on the other hand if a law comes, it shouldn’t be misused by women in the garb of strained relationship with in-laws or used as a tool to teach a lesson.”

Ranjani K. Murthy, researcher and consultant in gender, poverty and development, said: “Any rape is rape irrespective of where it happens and what the relationship is between the two people. Any sexual relationship without consent is rape.”

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code provides an exception to husbands from the offence of rape in case of forced sexual intercourse with their wives who are 18 years or above.

According to a report in The Print, recently, a single-judge bench of the Karnataka High Court refused to quash a rape case against a man who faced charges of keeping his wife as a “sex slave” and of sexually assaulting her.

Rejecting the man’s defence that he was legally exempt from rape charges, Justice M Nagaprasanna said: “The exemption of the husband on committal of such assault/ rape, in the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case cannot be absolute, as no exemption in law can be so absolute that it becomes a licence for the commission of a crime against society.”

chhavi.v@iijnm.org

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