Indian government attempts to block plea to criminalise marital rape because it 'puts husbands at risk of harassment'

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The Indian Government has tried to block a petition in High Court to criminalise marital rape because it says it could put husbands at risk of “harassment”.

Indian penal law currently stipulates that sexual intercourse with a wife over the age of 15 cannot be classed as rape.

Several women’s charities are contesting this and have launched a petition that is being heard at the Delhi High Court.

Campaigners have requested that marital rape is made illegal on the grounds that sexual violence violates human rights.  

Protest: Activists from All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) during protest in New Delhi demanding a probe into rapes and sexual assaults (Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters)

They argued that, in other countries, married women are still entitled to the full range of civil liberties and human rights and are not required to have sex at the will of their husband.

According to the Times of India, Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code has the exception clause sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”. 

Judges hearing the case asked the Government to detail its stance on the issue.

In their submission, the Government lawyers said: “What may appear to be marital rape to an individual wife, it may not appear so to others. 

“As to what constitutes marital rape and what would constitute marital non-rape needs to be defined precisely before a view on its criminalisation is taken.”

The submission goes on to say that, by criminalising marital rape, it could encourage it to “become a phenomenon which may destabilize the institution of marriage” and be “an easy tool for harassing the husbands”. 

They added: “That the fact that other countries, mostly western, have criminalised marital rape does not necessarily mean India should also follow them blindly.”

The petition has also been opposed by several men’s welfare charities who said it could lead to husbands being victimised.

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