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Hidden from view:Sexual assault within marriage

Dark truth: A large number of women sexually abused by their husbands have no social or legal remedy at hand because marital rape is not recognised as a criminal offence

lucknow Updated: Mar 29, 2018 13:49 IST
Richa Srivastava
Richa Srivastava
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Marital rape is very common. But it hardly comes to light.
Marital rape is very common. But it hardly comes to light.(Representative image)

His entry into the house late night scared her. Not just she, her children too left the room as soon as they saw him. For her, nights meant only pain.

Gynaecologists say
  • Though women are not very open about it within their families, many women go to gynaecologists, complaining of problems. Doctors say that there have been cases where women had to be given vaginal repairs as they had had excessive bleeding. Forcing intercourse during menstruation leads to infections and pain which leads to further complications if not treated.

“The scars all over my body narrate how much pain I underwent daily. I keep hearing about rapes every day. But I couldn’t even raise my voice because my culprit was my husband,” says the 42-year-old mother of five.

For her, rape was a daily feature. Her eyeswell up with tears as she recounts, “Not just once, he would torture me all through the night. It was an everyday affair. I had two miscarriages because of his animal instincts.”

Marital rape is very common. But it hardly comes to light. “Majority of women who undergo marital rape feel shy. They don’t gather courage to speak out against their husbands. And so many of such crimes remain confined within bedrooms,” says Madhu Garg, a social activist.

Those working for the rights of women feel that women who are subjected to domestic violence are mostly the ones who are also sexually abused by their partners. “Marital rape comes packaged with domestic violence. But women are not open about it. They talk about physical torture but not the sexual torture their husbands give them,” says Garg.

Psychiatrist’s take
  • Dr Smita Srivastava, consultant psychiatrist says, “The victims in such cases are in pathetic mental state. They undergo torture but can’t share it with anyone. Moreover, they can’t even protest within the room because they are not allowed any rights. This leads to depression.”
  • Dr Smita says intimate partners are involved in such cases and the rape is recurrent. “This is what adds to the trauma of the victim. She remains under a constant fear of being raped. As a result, she remains withdrawn, stops taking care of her self, becomes inefficient in handling children and family, remains irritated all the time and is not her normal self,” she says.
  • Talking about the mindset of the husband in such cases, she says, “This is a mental disorder wherein men have obsession for sex and often violent sex. It is a complex problem wherein men indulge in such practices in order to show their masculinity.”

“Women somehow consider it as their fate. They surrender themselves to their husbands. Women also feel that their consent doesn’t matter when it comes to sexual relationship with the partner,” she says.

Marital rape is also very common with minor girls. “A number of minor girls who get married to adults often complain of sexual abuse. In fact, such marriages only mean sexual and physical assault,” says Shachi Singh, who works for the rights of children.

Despite being a common occurrence, surprisingly marital rape is not recognised as an offence in India. The definition of rape under the Indian penal Code(IPC) clearly says, “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”

Renu Mishra, a lawyer,says, “The worst thing is that marital rape is not recognised as a crime in India. There is a civil law which says marital that rape is a sexual violence under the Domestic Violence Act. Only protection and compensation are allowed to the victim in such cases and nothing else is done.”

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