The Kerala High Court declared marital rape as a valid ground to file a divorce in a landmark observation.
This verdict comes at a time when debates around penalising marital rape have been gaining momentum and numerous such incidents are being reported.
The Case At Hand
The court dismissed two appeals filed by a man, a doctor by profession, challenging the decision of a family court granting a divorce.
A bench comprising of Justice A Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath, said marriage and divorce must be under the secular law and the time has come to redesign the marriage law of the country.
It said that having a common code of law for all communities for marriage and divorce is the need of the hour.
The Indian Express reported that the husband's insatiable urge for wealth and sex had driven a woman to distress and in her desperate attempt to get a divorce, she had given up all her monetary claims.
The court added that in a marriage a spouse has a choice not to suffer and the law cannot force a spouse to suffer against his or her wish by denial of divorce by the court.
"Treating wife's body as something owing to husband and committing sexual act against her will is nothing but marital rape. Right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity encompasses bodily integrity, any disrespect or violation of bodily integrity is a violation of individual autonomy," the court said in its order on July 30, reported The Indian Express.
Major Takeaways From The Verdict
The bench made significant remarks on marital rape. Firstly, it attempted to define marital rape saying that treating a wife's body as something that is owed to the husband and committing sexual acts against her will is undoubtedly marital rape.
The court also observed that it is time to revamp marriage laws in the country and that marriage and divorce must come under secular law. Amendments should be made to deal with marital damages and compensation. It opined that the framework of the laws should enable individuals to exercise free choice and make decisions.
The 2015-16 National Health and Family Survey (NFHS-4) showed that 5.4 per cent of married women have experienced marital rape. The data of the 2005-06 survey was 9.5 per cent yet the government fails to acknowledge the severity of the issue.