Why government has no problem if you're forcing sex on minor wife

What are social and legal reforms meant for then.

 |  4-minute read |   11-08-2017
  • ---
    Total Shares

The Indian social system, for centuries, has legitimised violent crimes against women committed within the confines of a marriage. Rape, assault and battery are so much a part of perfectly normal Indian marriages that even the law enforcing agencies and judiciary leave it to a woman's destiny - whether she is loved or wronged by her husband is her problem because marriage is a private affair.

But most importantly, patriarchy is sacrosanct.

So, when the government of India argued this week that there's nothing wrong in Indian men forcing themselves on their wives — something that is otherwise called rape - the Supreme Court also agreed on that.

The latest court observation shouldn't come as a surprise considering the fact that what a woman wants has always been decided by what the men around her think she needs.

But the two-male-judge bench of Supreme Court also decided that even if the wives happen to be girls between the ages of 15 and 17, forced sex is not rape if the accused is their husband.

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal by the NGO, Independent Thought. The petition requested the court to "strike down Section 375(2) of the IPC, which makes an exception under the rape law by permitting a man to have sex with a girl even if she is between 15 and 17 years old provided she is his wife".

According to this  PTI report, the petition also referred to the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012. It stated these provisions were contrary to the IPC provision. The POCSO provision provides that physical relationship with a minor constitutes the offence of rape and it does not exclude such relationship between a man and his minor wife. 

But the government thinks otherwise. According to MoS home, Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, a BJP MP from Gujarat, "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."

Going by the existing social realities in India, the government felt it was completely right to increase the scope of "legitimate rape" against women and allow husbands to rape minors between the ages of 15 and 17.

reuters_081117032022.jpgImage: Reuters photo

But according to the prevalent laws, sex "with or without the consent of a girl who is under 16 and unmarried is rape.

So, it's basically the institution of marriage which is above all laws and needs to be protected at any cost.

In any case, the peculiar and confusing nature of various laws related to women doesn't end here. For instance, the law doesn't permit girls below the age of 18 to get married. But India still has 13 million child brides. When the Child Marriage Act criminalises such unions, why won't sex with minors be counted as rape just because the accused is their husband?

It's difficult to "judge" what goes behind the passing of such observations, especially when it comes from the highest court of the country. Is there any real scope for more "reforms" in anti-rape laws, especially when we, as a nation, are governed by notions that firmly believe that the "concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context".

What are social and legal reforms meant for then? 

Truth be told, till the time men will continue to make laws for women, we cannot expect them to be more friendly to women than men. The Supreme Court itself has a very skewed sex ratio - one female sitting judge among 27 other male judges. 

That our institutions, including the government, need to undergo major reforms is more important if we expect to see a change in the plight of women, if not degrading and denigrating their rights further than what already exists.

Simply put, it's not just the laws that need reform but also those who make them.

Also read: By not seeing marital rape as a crime, Supreme Court is doing a disservice to Indian women

 

Writer

Like DailyO Facebook page to know what's trending.
Comment