Everything is in place for an Indian guy to rape his wife because Indian culture differs and Western notions of marital rape can't be applied to it. That, pretty much, is the essence of what Maneka Gandhi, India's Minister for females and Child Development, told MPs lately. Gandhi's remarks, indicative of the government's thinking on the problem, are the most recent contribution to a very long running debate in India as if the marital rape should be made a criminal offence. Laws on marital rape cannot be properly applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc. The minister said in a written response in the upper house of Parliament.
Her answer triggered howls of protest, though she was trotting out a perspective that's popular in some circles of Indian society - that Indian culture is extraordinary and so must be measured differently from that of the West. This perspective postulates that Indian culture is superior to Western culture, that its worth are more powerful and that the institution of marriage is more sacrosanct. If Indian culture is exceptional in whatever manner, it is only in how it is terribly unkind to women, who must bow to man dominance and have little say about his life, from childhood to old age.
Many committees and commissions have been set up through the years to advise governments on whether marital rape should be criminalized and most have argued against it, numerous reasons comparable to the ones given by Ms. Gandhi. Following the infamous 2012 Delhi gang rape the Justice Verma Commission was set up to look into violence against women. It recommended that the law be amended to specify that a marital relationship isn't a valid defense against rape. It's precisely the patriarchy embedded in Indian culture that makes it imperative for wives to be protected against forced sex by their husbands. It's precisely the poverty and illiteracy that Ms. Gandhi cited that leave many girls vulnerable and in need of legal protection. Opponents of making marital rape a crime argue that marriages would be weakened by false allegations. Taking into consideration the reluctance with which Indian girls report rape by a stranger, it's unlikely that wives will be queuing up outside police stations to make false accusations against their husbands.
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