MHA says marital rape under 18 years cannot be criminalized
The Home Ministry has stated that marital rape cannot be criminalized for girls under 18 years, citing "social realities." Hence they have decided to retain exception 2 to IPC Section 375 (defining rape), which states that "rape" would not be applicable if the sexual activity is done with a girl above 15 years of age if the man is married to the girl.
After the brutal gang-rape in 2012, the UN recommended India to work towards the safety of its women. Earlier in 2007, the OHCHR - supported Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) had recommended that India should remove the exception for marital rape from the definition of rape.
According to the UN Population Fund, more than two-thirds of married women in India, aged between 15 to 49, have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex.
In 2013, the Justice Verma Committee was compounded so as to provide swifter trial and punishment for criminals accused of committing sexual assault against women. The committee suggested that marital rape should be made an offence punishable by law. In February 2013, the committee's recommendations were rejected by the government.
It wasn't until the 1970s that laws started changing to make marital rape illegal. Now it is illegal in New Zealand, Canada, Israel, France, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Russia and Poland.
The SC in its historic judgement said that living-in was not a crime or a sin. It directed the Parliament to enact a law to regulate live-in relationship and amend the Domestic Violence Act. This judgement aims for the safety of women and children in such structures. The ruling came as some relief, especially after the fierce rejection of the marital rape plea.
In its report to the women and child development (WCD) ministry, the Pam Rajput committee recommended that marital rape be made an offence. It said that the age of the woman and her relationship with the perpetrator should not be held accountable. The recommendations will be further taken up in an inter-ministerial consultation on 20 July.
The government is awaiting the Law Commission report in order to introduce a law to make marital rape punishable by revising the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said "the issue of marital rape is very complicated and it is very difficult to explain and describe it". He also said criminalizing it was the need of the hour.
On being asked if the government intended to criminalise marital rape, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi said that "the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be applied in the Indian context." She also brought to notice that the scheme for universalization of the women's helpline will start from 1 April to help prevent violence against women.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said the government is mulling criminalising marital rape. Her comments come a month after her statement in Parliament that the concept cannot be "suitably applied in the Indian context." Gandhi said the Women and Child Development Ministry could take steps to criminalise marital rape, provided there was "ample proof of enough number of such complaints."