Target: Judge Virender Bhat, Court of New Delhi
Goal: Recognize marital rape as a crime
Recently, a court in New Delhi, India absolved a man accused of raping his wife, arguing that forced intercourse within marriage does not equal rape. In a country that has become known for its recent slew of brutal rapes, the court’s decision perpetuates an ideology of rape that can only harm women further.
The wife of the accused Vikash claimed that he sedated her, had her sign marriage documents in her intoxicated state, and proceeded to rape and then abandon her. She filed a complaint at Baba Haridas Nagar police station soon after.
But at the proceeding, Judge Virender Bhat stated that “the parties being husband and wife, the sexual intercourse between the two does not come within the ambit of the offence of rape, even if the same was against the will and consent of the victim.” Bhat’s decision is in line with section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, which does not recognize “sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife” as rape. Statements and policies such as these perpetuate heinous and false notions, such as that men have full access and authority over the bodies of their wives, and that rape is only committed by strangers.
Earlier, Indian parliamentarians rejected attempts to criminalize marital rape. A panel of lawmakers claimed that the proposed marital rape laws “[had] the potential of destroying the institution of marriage….if marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress.” If so, it’s about time we reform the way we think about family and marriage, because it’s certainly doing no good to many of the women in India. Two-thirds of of married Indian women surveyed by the United Nations Population Fund admit to have been raped by their husbands. One in five Indian men admit to raping their wives. It’s about time that the official Indian policy recognize the lived experience of these brutalized Indian women, starting with a retraction of Bhat’s myopic statement.
Dear Judge Virender Bhat,
We urge you to recognize that forced intercourse, by definition, is rape, a heinous and deservedly chargeable offense. You already acknowledge that forced intercourse is possible within marriage; take the next step and admit that it is rape and that all rape is reprehensible. Stop denying married women autonomy over their bodies and personal will. Stop excusing, and thus, perpetuating, the conditions that allow men in India to take free advantage of women and their bodies.
It is time to change the way Indian policy thinks about marital rape. Take action and be on the side of the historical good.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images