At times, I have seen my mother waking up in the mornings with the puffy eyes and depressed look. I have always wondered what had happened to her, why her eyes were swollen. I knew very well that she was going through horrible and sleepless nights. I did not know how to draw her out of the agony she was into. Later, I came to know it was marital rape. She was raped by her own husband. I still wonder why she did not scream while undergoing that pain. And, I realize she had maintained silence to safeguard the homely atmosphere for her children. Her silence was for her children to feel cozy and comfortable at the cost of her suffering. I view this as Indian society’s illusionary conservatism which is taking full advantage of her silence. Yes, her silence is taken for granted.
How India views Marital Rape?
“Laws on marital rape cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament, etc.” is the statement that comes from the honorable Minister of Women and Child Development of fastest developing nation, Ms.Menaka Gandhi. Let us dissect each of these factors within the Indian context.
Is it about the education of Men or Women or both? What do we mean by education here? Is it a degree from any university on any subject like Maths or Computers? Or, is it about sexual- awareness? Being graduated or not does not have anything to do with understanding the feelings and emotions of the partner. Education under this pretext should ideally mean sex-education. Hence, if the government is afraid that lack of sex-education is haunting the society then why is it shying away from providing sex-education in schools and colleges? Here we have to raise an important question on whether only illiterates contribute to marital rape. For all those who are convinced that marital rape happens only among the poor and illiterate feel free to read the story of how poet Meena Kandasamy fought through spousal rape and domestic violence
Here again we pose the same question. Are only the poor people committing marital rape? How does poverty contribute to spousal rape? Does our government claim that only poor men who cannot afford to alternate avenues of sexual-pleasure rape their wives? Why does this society and government associate all the substandard attitudes to poverty and literacy when not only the poor, not only the illiterate, but all sections of the society are equally involved in offenses.
Can we name a single religion which treats men and women equally? In fact, there is none. All religion equally reinforce that women are subordinate to men. So, how can we handover the responsibility of safeguarding our women to religious beliefs.
Marriage as a sacrament
We should realize the fact that how most of the marriages are happening in India. We all believe that two types of marriages exist in our society namely Love marriages and Arranged marriages. Let us kindly be informed that there is a third type too, Forced marriages. While most of the Indian women still have no say or choice in deciding their life partner, we continue to call marriage a sacrament. If we sanctify the concept of marriage, why do we have an ever increasing rate of domestic violence and divorces in India?
Circumstances of marital rape
To all men and women out there who ask why on earth a husband would rape a wife, rape does not happen just for sexual pleasure, but for other reasons too – power, humiliation, retaliation, sadism, psychopathic. Here are a few instances which should convince us that marital rape does not exists out-of-the-blue, and is very much bound to happen for one amongst us.
* Women who are going through emotional trauma.
* Women who couldn’t stand at the smell of cigarettes or effect of alcohol.
* Women who needs to be taught a lesson for asserting equality in an unequal marriage
* Women who have hurt the male ego by being economically/socially independent
* Women who had a traumatic past of sexual harassment and going through the same in the marriage as well
* Women who have recently delivered babies or women who are physically unwell
*** Women who weren’t simply ready for it whatever the reasons be it.
Marriage is not a license for rape
According to Indian law, it is legally approved for a husband to force his wife for sexual needs. Will these laws still exist if gender roles are reversed and if women start subjugating their husbands? We need to have gender neutral laws on marital rape which will protect not just women alone. Marital rape should be made as a punishable offence and a ground for divorce. Indian society and judiciary should get sensitized to this gross hypocrisy. Marriages should be set upon the bedrock of equality.
[ This article is jointly written by Vasumathi & Saraswathi , IT professionals working in Chennai and member of Young Tamil Nadu Movement ]
Photos Courtesy : CNN , Kractivist