• "Marital law cannot be applied in India" - Maneka Gandhi

    March 11, 2016

    It seems as if the BJP-led government is having a tough time staying away from the pit of controversy. After being thoroughly lashed out at following the Vijay Mallya incident, the ruling party has once again gave reasons for the Opposition to question the integrity of BJP. While addressing the Rajya Sabha in one of the meetings, Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi pointed out that the issue of marital rate cannot be applicable in India. For this she cited factors like poverty, illiteracy and religious beliefs as reasons. This statement comes as a shock to activists around the country fighting for criminalizing of marital rape. Many activists and protesters took the streets to express their frustration.

    In her statement, Maneka was reported as,

    “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education or illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc,"

    This came as a written reply to the question she received by the Opposition on whether the issue of marital rape will be criminalised or not. It is not long back that the J.S Verma Commitee in 2013 suggested that marital rape be criminalized in the aftermath of nationwide protests after the rape of Jyoti Singh “The law ought to specify that marital or other relationship between the perpetrator or victim is not a valid defense against the crimes of rape or sexual violation,” the committee report stated.

    The minister further said that the scheme for globalization of women helpline has been approved for implementation through states/UTs from April 1 last year to ensure 24-hour emergency and non-emergency response to women affected by violence both in public and private sphere, including in family, community and workplace. The surprising thing about the minister's remarks is not the fact that she made it. It is that she made a statement quite contrary to the above mentioned a few months back when she gave her complete support to criminalizing marital rape. In her very own words, “My opinion is that violence against women shouldn’t be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such cases, it should be treated with seriousness,” 



    The problem of marital rape is a widespread one in the Indian society. Not many admit to this fact but the truth can never be hidden for long. The seriousness with which the matter is handled right now does not perfectly describe the gravity of the issue. Continuous inconsistencies in the statements made by the government regarding the same only adds up to their report card negatively. UNDP chief Helen Clark in an exclusive interview talked extensively about the issue and she said, “Each country needs to look at its laws in the light of what the SDGs say, and whether these laws take women forward or take them back,” If someone from outside our country is forced to take notice of this evil, then it is high time for our very own legislators to do the same. Whether the issue of marital rape will be criminalized or not still remains the moot point.

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