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The ban on ‘India’s Daughter’ and lynching of a ‘rapist’ in Dimapur has led to intense debates over status of women in India. But what these debates are covering is the issue of rape that is legally recognised as ‘rape’. Many of us are not aware that one kind of rape is not covered under this definition. In fact, most people, especially our ‘honoured’ politicians, do not want to accept this particular act as rape although there is no physical difference between the two acts. The other rape is done by husbands on their wives, in millions. Marital rape, already recognised as an offence in around 100 countries, has no definition as yet in this country. ‘An act of sex with married wife, if not minor, is not an offence’. This is what the law says about an act of sex – forced or consensual – between husband and wife, effectively keeping an ugly silence on the common menace.
“…… Marriage is for women the commonest mode of livelihood and the total amount of undesired sex endured by women is probably greater in marriage than in prostitution…..” This saying of British philosopher Bertrand Russell was used by a lower court judge while denying bail to a person accused of sexually harassing his eight-month old young wife. The judge indirectly slammed the country’s lawmakers for their hypocrisy in claiming highest form of dignity for Indian women on one hand and not recognising marital rape on the other. Although most of India’s neighbours in South-East Asia including China are on its side, a small nation like Bhutan has gone ahead to join the matured world. Bhutan adopted the law in 2004. The movement against marital rape started in the sixties among east European countries and later spread to west Europe. In Britain, marital rape was made an offence as late as 1991.
According to statistics, however, the rate of rapes per lakh people in India is far less compared to other major nations. The national figure of 2000 is 1.8 while that of South Africa is highest at 132.8, England 28.8, US 27.3 and Russia 3.4 per lakh population. Marital rape being a recognised offence, the figure is higher in the other countries. Besides, women in these advanced countries are far less worried about approaching judiciary or police for justice regarding sexual offence. High rate of divorce, which happens on trivial issues in the West, is also another factor of the bigger number of ‘rapes’ in these countries. India can, under no circumstances, boast about its small figure vis-à-vis other nations.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on March 14, 2015)

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