Marital Rape :Intimate betrayal ….The untold trauma

I had wanted to take up the issue of Marital rape for a long time now .The movie DAMAN by Kalpana Lajmi where Raveena Tondon plays the role of a marital rape victim, made me write about this heinous crime against women.

Violence against women within the family has become a major issue in our society.

Marriage is perceived as ‘socially sanctioned sex’. A legal right to a woman’s mind, body and soul.

I often see men commenting that they “allow “their wives to work, go out and engage in hobbies she likes or do certain other things and wonder who gave them the right to give permission? Do we lose our right as a human being to decide things for ourselves, the moment we get married, and become a slave to the man we choose as a partner for life and do only those things he ‘chooses” to “”allow” us to do.

Centuries of conditioning of male minds makes them believe that they have a right over women. Under the broad term of patriarchy women are treated as second class citizens at home, at work and as citizens in the society.

Domestic violence is itself a small part of the larger subjugation of women by men in society.

A woman is given to understand that her desires and dreams must henceforth be subject to those of her husband. Once married a woman feels guilty of denying her husband his conjugal rights. Under such conditions, many women find it difficult to talk about the physical violence that takes place under the guise of conjugal relations in the marriage. Any mention of rape or sex fills them with shame.

All over the world, steps have been taken to ensure that marital rape is regarded as an offence. In India, however, we do not even admit that marital rape is a reality, let alone a crime. Marital rape is an issue that has long been swept under the carpet. It is something no one wants to talk about.

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, says, “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, not being under 15 years of age is not rape.” Marital rape doesn’t even fall under domestic violence.

Quoting section 375

375. Rape.

A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions: –

First: – Against her will.

Secondly: -without her consent.

Thirdly: – With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.

Fourthly: -With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly: – With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

Sixthly: – With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.

Explanation: – Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offense of rape.

Exception: -Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.

Our laws do not consider marital rape as a crime and only in cases of excessive physical abuse; a woman can file a case for cruelty. Domestic violence is prevalent in many forms in the society and for most of them there is a legal remedy except Marital rape.

There are so many loopholes in the law, about gender, age, caste and so on.

Rape with in marriage is not just the violation of sex; it’s related to a woman’s consent. Her autonomy and bodily integrity are at stake all the time. It’s the violation of self-determination and breach of trust. Marital rape betrays the fundamental basis of marital relationship.

It is an issue of denial of the human rights of women.

I feel that having sex with a person at one time does not “imply” consent to any future sexual acts but in our society a woman is subjected to all kind of sexual atrocities against her will. Not only are wives commonly viewed as the property of their husbands, but more specifically, they are seen as the sexual property of their husbands. Illicit sex, sex on demand, forced sex and sometimes brutal, humiliating sex is experienced by innumerable woman in a marriage.

Unfortunately not many women are aware of the fact that there is a thing called marital rape as they are discouraged to talk openly about sexual issues even within marriage.

And those who are aware do not show enough courage to stand up for their rights for various reasons, social or personal

Many of the marital rape victims end up with HIV and STD’s, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, physical mutations or wounds physical as well as psychological because they lack necessary courage to deny sex without contraception.

The impact of sexual assault lasts a lifetime and the victim suffers from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Feelings of betrayal, anger, guilt, humiliation, fear of intimacy, acute fear of being assaulted again and denial are some of the repercussions of marital rape.

In India, a societal change is needed as much as a legal one. Along with strict laws women need to be courageous enough to come out and report the crime against them, and then only the law can be enforced.

Women go through the most unimagined forms of abuse under the name of marriage. Once we accept this reality we may be able to take the first step towards protecting women.

Until then women will continue to be abused and raped by the one person they trusted most.

Also- Economic empowerment of women is a must because that will break their dependence on men at home.

There are many questions that need to be answered

Is the law a suitable and sufficient remedy for marital rape?

Will women want to have police people intervening?

Will the police give protection to a woman against her husband?

Can a woman walk into a police station and file a complaint against the man she’s married to?

Will at least the women police officers come to her help?

Is the society ready to tackle such an issue?

While a law will help as a deterrent and also in extreme cases, it is equally necessary to raise the consciousness of people, especially men, regarding the status of women.

We need to be aware of our rights; it’s not just the man’s prerogative to enjoy a physical relation. A woman too needs to be a willing participant and not just a provider; she should be able to state when the lines are crossed. Women themselves must break free of societal shackles and fight for justice.

I hope all the men who read this post will take that first step needed to give women the respect and dignity they deserve.

All the women will show courage to come out and fight for their self respect and take the first step of saying “NO”.

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16 thoughts on “Marital Rape :Intimate betrayal ….The untold trauma

  1. You know Tikuli, here I am speaking from personal experience – the law in India favours women, and there are social organizations that go out of their way to help the woman in question. But the woman has to take the first step. My father’s fav. line used to be “Khudi ko kar buland itna ki khuda bhi yeh pooche, bande teri raza kya hai” The woman has to prepare herself for the fight which will be tough and lonely – and every one helps her.

    I agree Ritu and hope more women would voice their thoughts but there is a need for a complete social change also least I am glad we were brought up to fight for myself .loved the FIL quote ..very true .


  2. I agree with Ritu — the problem is not that the law doesn’t help such cases, the problem is that not enough women voice their concerns. And that is because of the suppressive society that they are brought up in.

    Thought-provoking post. Kudos Tiks!

    Yes Ameeta we need to get out of the shadow of men and respect and love ourselves as women as individuals ..then only the change can come .


  3. Tikuli
    very good, very thoughtful. This is a topic that needs wide circulation and discussion. i’m really happy you wrote this. try post this as far and wide as possible.

    And thanks so much for your kind comments on my poems. I am so glad to have you on my space.
    here’s to more reading of your insightful blogs!

    Thank you Nabina ..I loved your work and will be eagerly waiting for for ..Yes some issues are close to heart and will surely make myself heard ..keep in touch .thanks again for finding time to come to my blogs ..good luck to you


  4. Yes a women has to take the first step and going against husband, family society…….its a tough battle and needs a strong woman to take the first step. Many organisations and people help as Ritu has mentioned. The strong almost always try to subjugate the weak…Think and act outside the box, sometimes its not confrontation but sensible behaviour that can save the situation.


  5. You know “Tiku” it needs decades of fighting back if not centuries… the light is just a few yards away… but what needs to be done is to stand up against the evils of society… and people like you who are aware need to be the carrier of the light and the leader of the group… ofcourse we are always there to support in any sense…


  6. Tikuli..

    This is just So True…Marriage gives no Man the Right to treat his Wife like His Slave..In order to safeguard her Marriage,an Indian Woman seals her lips & just goes on bearing all the Torcher done to Her,coz She knows that if She dares to opt out of her Marriage,She wud b looked down upon by the Society,who would humiliate her & keep her names and She would have no Choice but to bear the brunt of it.Coz in our Hindu Tradition its Popularly believed that -” Maata-Pita ke Ghar se ek Beti ki Doli uthti hai & Pati ke Ghar se Sirf Arthi Uthti hai”…Which means dat once Shez married,She cant leave her Husband’s House till d time She’s Dead..
    Also Another Major Problem in our Indian Society is that A Woman Herself is another Woman’s enemy..Despite of goin through a Similar trauma at some point of time in her Life,a Mother-in-Law doesnt understand her Daughter-in-Law’s Situation,but makes sure that her Daughter-in-Law also goes through Wat She herself had to once go through..If only 1 Woman could understand the Otherz Agony,Life would hav surely been a Better place for Women..Coz even after Marriage A Woman would b assured to b blessed wid Motherly love & would get the Strength to undergo any hardships.
    And Yes,only bcoz a Woman leaves her Home & comes,doesnt mean dat She loses all her Individual Rights..Marriage is a Union of 2 Individual Souls & not dominanace of 1 Soul over the Other.How many people can a Woman cater to?How many Roles does she has to play?A Daughter,A Sister,A Wife,A Daughter-in-Law,A Mother,A Mother-In-Law & A Grandmother…Its an Endless Journey & a Torcherous one most of d times..Most of the times,She has to sacrifice her own Happiness in order to cater to others’.It can b made beatiful only if her Loved ones understand her & value her for watever She keeps doing for them.


  7. A thought provoking blog, Tikuli.
    What you said is true this is one issue which is always swept under the carpet.
    Very apt title -Intimate betrayal.


  8. thank you for your support Afaque am glad finally I have a man speaking out .we all carry that light within what is needed is the spark ..wo subah kabhi to aayegi .amen
    thanks Shubha and Suja for spending your valuable time.
    thanks Deepak for your mini post ..every little thing counts .


  9. laws can but help but no law can change the mind set that has to b brought about by spreading knowledge & awareness,like that is being done via this blog……………
    both male & females shud know & respect their rights then only a healthy relation can thrive……………..


  10. Agreed.
    And it does not end with that one issue. Child marriage, and even more horrendous, child widows. The statistic of the latter is startling. Heard of that one?

    Yes Rhett I have not only heard of it but also know how important it is becoming to deal with these issue as soon as possible .It is a shame on our Indian society


  11. I just read in a regional newspaper before less than a week where a high court said that sexual intercourse with a girl of the age below 15 (or 18, I don’t remember exactly) even if she’s his wife would be considered as a rape.

    I don’t know what it meant, though.


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  13. Tikuli I thought this was included in the Domestic Violence Act as a crime… let me check.

    Although I agree even if this was declared a crime, it would still be very difficult for a woman to go an d complain. Social awareness – like Bell Bajao campaign would work much better. The criminal should be,
    Seen as a criminal,
    He should be humiliated – even if he is not identified – and not accepted as ‘chalta hai’, ‘it happens’ etc.
    He and the vicitm, both need to now that what he is doing is a crime. I think knowing this might deter a little.


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  15. Hi Tiks, extremely well written and hard hitting. However, I want to take on a controversial stance here and I am dead serious when I say this: What’s your point? Who is listening? The rapists aren’t!! OK, let me clarify. Everything you have said is absolutely on the money, but honestly, to the most of the readers (GenX/Y who are perhaps well educated, net savvy) of this article you are preaching to the choir, it is to me anyway. But, I must admit that I was flabbergasted by the IPC stance on this issue. OK, let’s just say a woman has supporting friends and relatives and is brave enough to file a case, what’s is the judge going to say? Case closed, next case!!

    First, nothing is going to change unless you at least have the law on your side. I am not saying that this is going to fix the problem, but at least that’s an absolute must. Without that, the guy is going to wave the paper under your nose and tell you to come back when you have the law reversed. However, that’s not going to really solve anything. How are you going to get these women to testify? OK, forget about testifying, let’s start with the family – how many families are willing to support them and take them back once they are married and left the house. I personally know two women who were sent back to their husbands’ houses despite being physically abused and tortured; and I am been out of India for almost 30 years. How many people are willing to go public with their humiliation? Tough questions, no answers.

    Let me also give you a US perspective. Yes, we have tough laws to protect such cases. But, the crime continues. People in India always pride themselves about low divorce rates in India and how it’s almost 50% in the US, all true. However, the women do take the stance and those who want to get out, can. The economic dependency angle is covered too. For a divorce, in most states, the property is considered community property meaning that at the time of split everything is 50/50 and the one making more money usually pays alimony/palimony and child support (of course there is abuse here, but that’s a whole different topic).

    So, in order for this to work in the Indian context, the remedies are obvious, but impossible to enforce:

    1. Change the law – tough, can the govt ever be bothered to deal with such controversial topics? India continue to lead nations (behind Pakistan) for being the most politically corrupt nation in the world (statistically at least)
    2. Education, education, education – India continues to be one of the most illiterate developing countries in the world
    3. Create family/social awareness – even though this the one that is under the public control this remains the toughest because of social standings, family stigma, parental pressure, economic reasons
    4. And a tongue and cheek advice to the women – leave the SOB and let the chips fall where they may (easier said than done – economic conditions and even children in some cases)

    From a self-criticism point of view, I must admit that I have no right to say such things sitting in the ivory tower. While we hear about such atrocities, we rarely are faced with such situations in the immediate family or friends (or at least that we know of). We all feel terrible when we hear about it but chalk it off as a social ill and a statistic we can quote without really understand the pains that the women go through under such situations and have nowhere else to go. However, if you wish to pursue this further, I do have a classmate (an engineer turned lawyer) of mine who is a rather influential lawyer/judge in Delhi High Court/Supreme Court (I have lost contact with him but I could resurrect it if you wish) who may have or know another lawyer who has some views on this subject.


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