Months after MPs rejected the Verma Committee’s proposals to criminalise marital rape, a Delhi court has called upon the country’s laiwmakers to set right the “double standards and hypocrisy in law” which has failed to recognise such incidents actionable offences.
“It is unfortunate that we in India are yet to recognize woman’s right to control marital intercourse as a core component of equality,” said Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau, adding that the shortfall in law was “gross violation of the acknowledgment of a women’s right of self-determination i.e. control on all matters relating to her body and Criminalisation of marital rape.”
The court’s observations came while rejecting the bail application of a Delhi resident, Praveen Arora, accused of sodomising his wife. Arora had requested the court to grant him bail on the ground that the incident took place in a marriage, making it a spousal rape, which is not recognized under the law.
Throwing out his bail application, court said it could not allow him to get away with such “perverse actions”, which had caused “physical and psychological damage to the a young girl who was married for only eight months on account of this abusive relationship”.
Activists and lawyers agree with Justice Lau.
“A lot of violence exists in marriages, mostly in the form of spousal rape,” said senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, who is best known as the lawyer who propelled forward the groundbreaking Vishakha guidelines in the Supreme Court.
“We need to criminalise this so that the victims have a name for what they go through, so they have somewhere to turn to when they’ve been wronged,” she added.
In March this year, Parliament rejected the Verma Committee’s proposal to criminalise marital rape. A panel of lawmakers said the proposed marital rape law “has the potential of destroying the institution of marriage”.
Women’s rights activist Kalpana Vishwanath believes the decision could be attributed to “patriarchal anxiety that stops people from taking it up as a serious issue.”
According to the United Nations Population Fund, marital rape is the most common form of violence against women in India. Two-thirds of married Indian women surveyed by the UN said their husbands had forced them to have sex on numerous occasions.