Petitions seek to strike down exception granted to husbands under Indian rape law
The Delhi government informed the High Court on Friday that marital rape is already covered as a crime of cruelty under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It also said that the courts have no power to legislate any new offence.
“Marital rape is a crime of cruelty in India. Married women and unmarried women are different under every single law,” government lawyer Nandita Rao told the HC which is hearing a batch of petitions seeking criminalisation of marital rape.
Ms. Rao, additionally, said even in the case of one of the petitioners, who claimed to be a victim of repeated marital rape, the FIR stood registered for an offence under Section 498A of the IPC, which deals with cruelty to a married woman by her husband or his relatives.
In India, marital rape is not defined in any statute or law. The High Court was hearing the petitions by NGOs RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association, and a man and a woman seeking to strike down the exception granted to husbands under the Indian rape law.
The exception says sexual intercourse by a man with his wife aged 15 years or above is not rape even if it is without her consent. In October 2017, the Supreme Court increased it to 18 years.
During the hearing, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner woman, argued that courts all over the world have recognised marital rape as an offence.
“Marital rape is the biggest form of sexual violence which happens in the confines of our homes. How many times does rape take place in the institution of marriage and is never reported? This figure is not reported or analysed,” he said.
Mr. Gonsalves also highlighted a United Nations report which indicated the prevalence of sexual violence between married couples in certain Indian States.
The Centre had earlier told the High Court that criminalising marital rape “may destabilise the institution of marriage” and would become an easy tool for harassing husbands.
The High Court will hear the case again on January 10.
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