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The criminality of marital rape in India

 It is appalling that in this day and age, India still remains a part of the 36 countries in which marital rape is not legal. About 70 per cent of women in India are victims of domestic violence. National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) ‘Crime in India’ 2019 report shows that a woman is raped every 16 minutes, and every four minutes, she experiences cruelty at the hands of her in-laws. An analysis of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 data indicates that an estimated 99.1 per cent of sexual violence cases go unreported and that the average Indian woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others.

This is because of the rape culture that is still entrenched in Indian society. Women are considered to be their husbands' chattel in marriages rather than equal partners, and this reflected itself in the skewed adultery law that was amended because it was discriminatory towards women. Whilst there is great outrage over stranger rapes that are covered with big headlines in newspapers, we must remember that the biggest bearers of sexual violence do not have the social capital to come out with their stories because our society does not understand that consent can be withdrawn in a marriage as well.

This societal disease infiltrates into our legal and governmental establishment as well. Powerful ministers making sexist statements is not unheard of, and judges making their judgements in rape cases to blame the victim are commonplace. This institutional rot cannot be cured without striking the problem at its root.

It is true that legal minutiae have very little impact on the day-to-day affairs of most people in the country, but the law sets a precedent. We all know the legal ban on untouchability has not stopped the practice, but the illegality of it guides the moralities of people and draws a line between what is normal in a civilised society and what is not. Hence, it is important that are laws are amended to deem marital rape a criminal offence that merits high punishment for us to progress as a society.

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