Marriage does not give a man the right harass a woman freely and publicly. It does not ensure the man freedom of sexually assaulting his wife in the bedroom. Neither does it mean that a woman’s body is the man’s fundamental right.

But then, does it give the woman the right to blame her husband for an act that took place by mutual agreement, or for an offense he did not even commit?

Let us see what the Government has to say.

The Centre views the above situation as, “any attempt to decriminalize marital rape may shake the very foundation of marriage”.

Before criminalizing marital rape, it has to be ensured that the foundation of one’s marriage does not get destabilized and that the new law does not become a tool for wives to harass their husbands, whether, for divorce, money or otherwise, the Centre was quoted as saying.

This argument comes in the wake of rising number of cases of misuse of section 498A (dowry harassment act) of the Indian Penal Code by women, as observed by the Supreme Court and the State High Courts.

The Centre further argued that solely because other countries (including those in the West) have criminalized marital rape, India could not follow in their footsteps as India has several other issues to deal with, some of them being the grave ones like illiteracy, financial dependence of women in the rural areas, societal pressures as well as cultural differences in the states.

The affidavit filed by the Centre read that a sexual act between a man and his wife has no clear demarcation as rape, and this decision solely lies with the female partner. In such cases, it becomes unfair on the part of the woman to name it as marital rape.

An organization in the interest of men’s rights filed a petition regarding this in the Supreme Court which said that there are already enough laws in the Constitution to protect women’s rights (referring to section 495 and 496A of IPC), and there is no need to add another law for the same, nor expand the existing ones to exclude laws protecting men’s rights.

The Centre also said that such sensitive issues needed the opinion of the state governments, which may otherwise create issues in the long run.

Finally, the affidavit concluded by recommending a broad-based consensus of the society for bringing any law into the Constitution.

Our Opinion:

The Centre is correct in its worry of violating men’s rights in the name of feminism by considering marital rape an offense, and that such decisions should be taken by mutual agreements of all the state governments and by taking into consideration the societal perspective.

But till the time any stronger law comes into action, the current judiciary should ensure timely decision making in sensitive issues like rape, even if it talks about marital rape.