Union Minister of State for Home Haribhai Chaudhary (file photo: rajnathsingh.in)
It isn’t a crime for a man to rape his wife in India as marriage is treated as sacred here, the government said in parliament on Thursday.
"It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context," said Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary in a statement to the Rajya Sabha.
He was replying to a written question by DMK's K Kanimozhi, who had asked whether the government was planning to amend the law to make marital rape a crime. She cited a UN estimate that 75 per cent of the married women in India are subjected to forced sex within their marriages.
In response, the minister said that marital rape was not a criminal offence due to “various factors e.g. level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc.”
In response, Kanimozhi told The Hindu: “I accept that the institution of marriage is an integral part of our social structure. Many people across many faiths hold it sacred. But it has not stopped us from bringing the anti-dowry law or domestic violence legislation.”
Lawyers and women’s rights activists have criticized the decision to leave marital rape out of the penal code.
“The Domestic Violence Act recognises sexual abuse in a marital relationship but only offers civil remedies. The reason they are not willing to make it a criminal offence is because Parliament is full of patriarchal and conservative people,” said senior lawyer Vrinda Grover.
According to The Wall Street Journal, many countries have now made it a crime for a husband to force his wife to have sex. Malaysia changed its laws in 2007, Turkey in 2005, and Bolivia in 2013. The United States began criminalizing marital rape in 1970s and most European countries in the 1990s.
Apart from India, the countries that do not criminalize marital rape include China, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.