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Dipak Misra, former Chief Justice of India, on April 8 said that it is his “personal view” that marital rape should not be made an offence in India and that such a law is not necessary.
While at a conference at KLE Society’s Law College in Bengaluru, Misra said that borrowed ideas are not always applicable under all circumstances.
“Because some country has made marital rape an offence… I don’t think it should be regarded as an offence in India. In villages, it will create absolute anarchy in many families. Our country is sustaining because of the family platform. We still have family values… we still respect the family background and many other facets,” he said.
This statement was made by him when a first-year LLB student asked him if he thinks rape laws in India need to be amended. He wanted to know Misra’s take on whether rape laws should be made gender neutral and marital considered a crime, reported The Times of India.
In India, marital rape is not defined in any law or statute. In an attempt to make it a criminal offence, several women’s rights groups have been fighting at different forums, including the court of law.
Misra retired from the post of CJI in 2018, and before that, several landmark judgements upholding fundamental, constitutional and individual rights were delivered by him, including decriminalising homosexuality with the historic ruling on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.
According to Misra, not all constitutional functionaries are supposed to show constitutional behaviour. “They have to be guided by constitutional morality. Rational anarchy has no room in democracy. Similarly, individual imperialism has no space in democracy. A balance has to be struck,” he said while about power-sharing between the Delhi government and the lieutenant governor.
Netizens too have been expressing their rage and disappointment on social media.
So, the cost of “upholding family values” is for women to tolerate rape by their husbands. Unbelievable
— Amit K (@toamitk) April 9, 2019
That shows where exactly he stands. Rape is rape. No matter whether it is before marriage or after marriage. It is a forceful act.
— Deependra S Chauhan (@dpendra_chauhan) April 9, 2019
In 2017, while arguing against criminalising marital rape in 2017, the Centre had told the Delhi High Court that doing this may result in destabilising the institution of marriage. According to the government, criminalising it would pave way for harassing husbands. Further, it claimed that no “lasting evidence” will be there in cases of sexual acts between a woman and her husband.
Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which defines rape, has in it an exception clause which says “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”
It is harrowing and disheartening to see that the man who delivered judgement as historic as decriminalising homosexuality can believe that marital rape should not be considered a crime.
Several women across the country suffer sexual abuse and rape by their husbands, and there is no law to give them justice. Women are often victims of the regressive mindset of their husbands and society, but there is no law to protect them. Forceful intercourse is nothing but a crime, no matter who the perpetrator is.
It is time that the government stops putting rape into different categories. A rape is a rape, whether committed by a stranger, an acquaintance, or even a husband. Indian law needs to remove the special provision given to some rapists and accept that marital rape is a reality that thousands of women suffer from.
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