A Centre-appointed panel is proposing to make marital rape an offence in India irrespective of the age of the wife or the relationship between the perpetrator and survivor.
The Pam Rajput committee has already submitted its report to the women and child development (WCD) ministry in this regard.
The recommendations are scheduled to be discussed in an inter-ministerial consultation on Monday.
Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi had earlier voiced her concerns on this issue and said marital rape was a form of violence against women and was “unacceptable”
“My opinion is that violence against women shouldn’t be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness,” Gandhi had said.
However, Gandhi’s statement was in contrast with what the government thinks on this matter.
“It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament,” Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhury, minister of state for home, had said in April during a Rajya Sabha session.
According to the UN Population Fund, however, more than two-thirds of married women in India, aged 15 to 49, have been beaten up or forced to provide sex. The UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women has therefore recommended that marital rape be criminalised in India. Many Indian activists and opposition party leaders have agreed with this recommendation.
Other issues that could come up in Monday’s meeting include that of revising the age of consent in the case of a woman from the present 18 years to 16 years. Rape by armed personnel in the place or during duty could also be penalised or AFSPA could be revoked in such situations.
A proposal to deal with honour crimes through a special legislation has also been put forward.