India refuses to criminalize sexual assault in marriages

Organized protest in India against government’s lack of marital rape policies

By: Sosie Casteel| Writer

December 12, 2019

In the current Asian country of India, men are permitted to rape as long as they’re married to the victim. Policemen and lawyers do not consider marital rape a crime, nor do they count it as rape at all. To showcase the absurd law, a journalist named Sameer made a fake confession about raping his wife to a police station in India, only to be told that the issue should remain between him and his wife rather than with law enforcement. 

As long as a man’s wife is older than 15, they can have sex without consent. According to UNICEF statistics, India has the highest rate of under-aged brides annually. Over a quarter of young women growing up in India get married before they turn 18. Explanations for this range from gender inequality to poverty and lack of education. Gender inequality also contributes to the lack of marital rape laws, as men often treat women as objects useful for sex and child-rearing in India.

Head of Indian government refusing to reform marital rape laws

The Indian practice of Hinduism implies that a husband can possess his wife, allowing her no control. Their only option is to go to court, but filing a report gets them sent back home to their husbands. 

A non-governmental organization called the Rochester Institute of Technology foundation proposed a law that criminalizes sexual intercourse without consent under any circumstances. Unfortunately, their ideas were opposed by a separate NGO who believes a new law may destabilize family structure in India and the proposal got denied. 

Minimal action has been taken to reform Indian law and protect its young female civilians. Every wife whether under-aged or adult can be subject to rape. “If you have no consent, married, not married, young, old, it’s still a woman’s body,” SCHS sophomore Satine Harvey said.  “She gets to decide what she wants.” Unfortunately, men in positions of power in India do not agree and their society remains patriarchal. 

Sexual assault and rape occur worldwide, but if more NGOs advocate for the reform of this law, India may back down and give women in India more control over their lives.

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