The government told Rajya Sabha on Wednesday the concept of marital rape cannot be applied in the country since marriage was treated as a sacrament or sacred in the Indian society.
The government's stand came against the backdrop of the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommending to India to criminalise marital rape.
"It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament," Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary, minister of state for home, said in a written reply to a question from DMK MP Kanimozhi.
Kanimozhi had asked the home ministry whether government will bring a bill to amend the IPC to remove the exception of marital rape from the definition of rape; and whether it was a fact that UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against women had recommended to India to criminalise marital rape.
She had also said that according to United Nations Population Fund, 75% of the married women in India were subjected to marital rape and whether government had taken cognisance of the fact.
Marital rape refers to unwanted intercourse by a man with his wife obtained by force, threat of force, or physical violence, or when she is unable to give consent.
Chaudhary said the ministry of external affairs and ministry of women and child development had reported that UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women had recommended to India to criminalise marital rape.
"The Law Commission of India, while making its 172nd Report on Review of Rape Laws did not recommend criminalisation of marital rape by amending the exception to Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code and hence presently there is no proposal to bring any amendment to the IPC in this regard," the minister said.
Justice JS Verma Committee, set up in the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape incident to suggest changes in the criminal law, had recommended that the exception for marital rape be removed from the Indian Penal Code(IPC).
"The fact that the accused and victim are married or in another intimate relationship may not be regarded as a mitigating factor justifying lower sentences for rape," the Verma Committee had said.
However, the government did not accept the recommendation.
The parliamentary standing committee on home, in its report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012, agreed with the view of the home ministry that criminalising marital rape would weaken traditional family values in India, and that marriage presumes consent.
It said accepting marital rape as a criminal offence could lead to "practical difficulties". The decision to exempt marital rape has also been fiercely opposed by women's groups.
Describing Chaudhary's statement as "completely wrong", CPI (M) polit bureau member Brinda Karat said marriage certificate cannot be a license for forced sexual act with women.
"Rape occurs when there is no consent of the woman for sexual act. So, it is rape when there is no consent from the woman. A marriage certificate does not change that. A marriage certificate can not become the license for forced sex.
"Marriage is sacrosanct because its between two consenting adults. That has to be the concept of marriage," the leader said.