Government needs to take a categorical stand on marital rape issue

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Government needs to take a categorical stand on marital rape issue

  • The government to relook at its position spelled out over five years ago on marital rape
  • 2017: Government opposed the removal of the statutory exception in Section 375 of the IPC for rape committed by a husband on his wife, if she is not below 18 years of age.


  • The government is hesitant of agreeing with the growing body of thought that rape may occur both within and outside of marriage.
  • 2016: Government rejected the concept of marital rape, stating “cannot be applied to the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs and the mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament”.
  • The Delhi government recently informed the High Court that marital rape is already covered as a crime of cruelty under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It also said that the courts have no power to legislate any new offence.

Laws applicable in case of Marital rape in India

  • In India, marital rape is not defined in any statute or law.
  • The exception in Section 375 of IPC says sexual intercourse by a man with his wife aged 15 years or above is not rape even if it is without her consent.
  • October 2017: the Supreme Court increased the age to 18 years.
  • Offence under Section 498A of the IPC, which deals with cruelty to a married woman by her husband or his relatives.
  • The domestic violence act enables complaints against physical and sexual abuse.

Legal Arguments for criminalizing marital rape

  • Traditional reasons against criminalizing rape in marriage, such as that the institution of marriage would be shattered and that it will be misused, are no longer valid.
  • The country has enacted a domestic violence law that allows victims of physical and sexual abuse to file complaints.
  • Cruelty is also a crime under the IPC in a home setting.
  • Making marital rape a crime, like making domestic violence or cruelty a crime, is unlikely to destabilize the institution of marriage.

Way forward

  • One cannot expect the courts to postpone a decision on the validity of the present rape exemption indefinitely.
  • It's past time for the Union government to take a firm stance on making marital rape a criminal offence.