Marital Rape is also Rape, not an Exception

(Published in The Huffington Post India : http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira-mohan/ )

In a recent Rajya Sabha meet, the Minister of State for Home, in keeping with the consistent tradition of bizarre statements being made by leaders holding offices of pertinent authority in our country, didn’t fail to deliver.

Mr. Haribhai Parathibai Chaudhry responded to DMK’s Kanimozhi’s question on whether the law would be amended to make marital rape a crime by stating that “marital rape does not apply in India as marriage is considered sacred here.”

What is most worrying here is the mindset of these ministers who very ostentatiously seem to turn a blind eye to the implications their words have.  In essence, Mr. Chaudhry is saying that it is okay for a man to rape a woman he is married to. By law! This is exactly the kind of thing that fuels the broader fires that are already ablaze on the issue of gender equality, women empowerment and feminism.  How can we talk about a ‘Progressive’ India when our misogynist, regressive leaders are hell-bent on leading India back to the stone age?

That the sheer attempt has been made to categorize rape in to different acceptance piles based on societal and cultural parameters is mind-boggling. When sex is not consensual and a man has forced himself on a woman, whether they are married, engaged, dating or complete strangers, RAPE IS STILL RAPE and in no conceivable case can it be and should it be deemed acceptable!!

For Ms. Barkha Dutt who has just recently sparked an ongoing debate on twitter and other social media with regards to her defensive stand at the ‘Women in the World’ Summit in New York, on the safety of women in India by shelling out comparisons with western countries, I have this question : Would any US minister have the same perception of rape as Mr. Chaudhry? Would any of these other countries you mentioned consciously ALLOW marital rape to take place by law? It is clearer now more than ever why India is considered the ‘Rape Capital of the World’ even though we all know that a lot of women in a lot of other countries face similar violence and crime. So while I admire Ms. Dutt’s effort to defend the country, I am certainly not in her corner in this argument. India’s problem is the mindsets and the indifferent, misogynist approach to women’s safety, inherent even within that strata of society that have been entrusted to make decisions for the upliftment and progress of not just India but also its women.

As an Indian woman who is deeply affected and saddened every time I read about any such new crime that takes place, I am very worried and concerned that the people running my country make inconceivably irrational and ludicrous remarks such as stating that any kind of rape is acceptable by law!

Yes marriage is sacred, which involves the holy union of a man and woman in a presumably endless lifetime of mutual respect, love, support and togetherness. But the sanctity of marriage by no means allows the barbaric, non-consensual physical and mental violation of one person by another.

Hiding behind weak excuses of culture, tradition, values, social customs and the sanctity of marriage to escape what should in any case be a non-issue – that of amending Section 375 of the Indian Penal code to include marital rape as a crime is just another way we are failing the women of our country.  And subsequently, any hope of progress too.

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