The Centre defended the Indian Penal Code provision that says sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, who is not under 15 years of age, is not rape.(Representational Image: Shutterstock)
The Centre defended the Indian Penal Code provision that says sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, who is not under 15 years of age, is not rape.(Representational Image: Shutterstock)

‘Criminalising marital rape complicated’: Centre tells HC

The Centre on Monday told the Delhi high court that if marital rape is brought under law, “the entire family system will be under great stress” and defended the penal code provision that protects husbands from being tried for the rape of their wives.
By Soibam Rocky Singh | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON AUG 29, 2016 11:45 PM IST

The Centre on Monday told the Delhi high court that if marital rape is brought under law, “the entire family system will be under great stress” and defended the penal code provision that protects husbands from being tried for the rape of their wives.

Quoting from justice JS Verma committee report, the Centre pointed out “even when marital rape is recognised as a crime, there is a risk judges might regard it as less serious than other forms of rape”. The panel had examined criminal law in the aftermath of the December 16 gang rape and recommended several changes in existing laws.

The government sought to emphasise that a change in society’s attitude was needed. “It is also important that legal prohibition on marital rape must also be accompanied by changes in the attitude of the prosecutors, police officers and those in society generally”.

The HC is hearing a petition filed by an NGO seeking changes in the ‘Exception 2 to Section 375’ of IPC that does not consider sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, who is above 15 years of age, as rape.

Activists are critical of the government’s stand on the issue and Union minister Maneka Gandhi had faced flak for saying that “marital rape cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like 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 its submission before the court, the Centre said the IPC section “deals exclusively with private affairs of husband-wife based on traditional social structure and hence can’t be said to be unconstitutional”.

Earlier, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs had considered the 172nd report on Review of Rape Laws by the Law Commission and the report of Justice JS Verma Committee and presented its report to the Rajya Sabha in 2013.

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