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Can Marital Rape be Considered Rape?

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A friend of mine recently argued that marital rape is not quite a pressing issue and that our lack of laws for such a situation is justified. However, I must say that I disagree.

After all, what exactly does marriage imply, both in society and in our personal lives? In any relationship, where does sex stop being an issue of personal boundaries and become an actual sign that the relationship is headed to an end? And also, how is the communication between both partners lacking and what can be done to improve upon it. This obviously leads us to the conclusion that we need a more standardized definition of marriage, i.e., the expectations and entitlement of each partner within the relationship are discussed and adhered to. However, we all know that human needs and wants within a relationship are transitory and relationships as a whole are a lot more complex than any one definition can fully define to the extent that we come to a standardized set of rules as to exactly what circumstances must occur for a sexual encounter to be considered ‘rape’.

The current definition of rape constitutes that the victim must either be

  1. Violated despite having refused
  2. Be coerced or blackmailed into the encounter, or consider herself to be married to the perpetrator
  3. Be in a situation where they are intoxicated or under influence and cannot fully give consent
  4. Be below 16 years of age

However, this law also states that if the victim is above 15 years of age and married to the perpetrator, it shall not count as rape. 

The reason for this, as provided by my friend was that women already have enough judicial power in the country (what with sections 354(A,B,C and D) of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013. Statistically, 53.2% of rape cases filed in Delhi were said to be false accusations in between April 2013 – July 2014. While I have not yet completely delved into this data, you can be sure that I will be looking into it in another blogpost.) And considering it is misused to such a large extent, their judicial power must be curbed considering how  easy it has become to charge someone with rape.

 

Coming back to marital rape. It is a situation which can be fully avoided by communication and understanding, and in extreme cases where no solution can be found, by therapy or divorce, considering  sexual dissatisfaction can be cited as a valid reason for divorce . While a certain amount of social stigma does affect divorcees in India, I can say for a fact that morally  it is better to be a divorcee than to be a rapist, even if the law cannot yet label you as one.

Taking into consideration that it is not necessary for rape to come into the picture of an unhappy marriage, shouldn’t there be some laws in place to curb the freedoms of people who choose to ignore it simply out of a sense of entitlement, ego and frustration?

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