Marital Rape

Marital Rape


“They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest.”

Was my silence to this brutality a marriage vow? Is this suffrage a moral obligation? Will raising my voice against this cruelty makes me less of a good wife?  I guess I should be quite.

Marriage is a bound between two souls where they vow each other to treat with love, affection, and humanity. They share consent to have a right on each other. But how far is this right misinterpreted?  Marital rape is defined by any unwanted sexual acts by a spouse or ex-spouse, committed without consent or against a person’s will, obtained by force, or threat of force, intimidation, or when a person is unable to consent. There are various types of rape, including battering rape, force-only rape, and obsessive or sadistic rape.

Marital rape exists in the data, but not in law because our country has still not criminalized marital rape and so we don’t acquire such strong laws that could save millions of wives from this cruelty. Rape is defined under section 375 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 but marital rape has no legal stand of its own as per now.

Kinds of marital rape

There are majorly three categorized kinds of marital rape broadly described as-

Force only rape

This kind of rape happens when the abuser desire to exert its power and control over the female. This form of rape is common where there is a larger contrast between the physical size and strength of abuser and victim, or in abusive relationships where physical violence is infrequent or non-existent.

Violent Rape

This kind of rape is defined as when the abuser uses extreme physical force to injure the victim; such physical abuse could result in injuries on the physical parts i.e. Genital areas and breast. Such assault includes physical violence by punching or beating or rape with physical assault. A wife due to such shameful act goes through immense humiliation and pain which becomes a part of their lives.

Obsessive and Sadistic Rape

This kind of rape takes the humiliation of the female experience, to another level as the abuser rapes the victim by shameful means like urinating on the female, acting out of fantasy and torcher or using objects during rape.

Status of Marital Rape in India

Every human being irrespective of his or her sex has a certain right and authority over his or her own body. As stated in the Indian Penal Code, Section 375- “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.” This section naturally takes away this right and authority which is unfair, unjust and undue. There are some laws or rules or to be more specific “orthodox regulations” which need to be changed and updated with time. The laws which make “Woman the Property of Man” and encourage such things need to be changed. While most of the developed world has penalized marital rape, surprisingly, there is no law to protect married women against Marital Rape in India. Marital rape can’t be made a Criminal Offence in India because of high illiteracy rate, poverty, extreme religious beliefs and the very ‘sanctity’ of marriage. Marriage in India is, among other things, a sexual contract because it gives the man implied consent to sex in perpetuity. It reinforces the man’s “ownership” rights over the wife. This denies the woman any agency over her own body, its sexuality, and its reproductive function. Refusing to criminalize marital rape is to accept that sexual coercion against a woman, so long as it is within a marriage, will be endorsed by both government and society. If women are to wrest control of their lives, they have to have the right to say no to their husbands without being socially penalized for it. The myth of the ‘wifely duty’ and the ‘conjugal right’ must end because marital sex, like all sex, must be with mutual consent and pleasure.

The best way that the law protects women subjected to marital rape is by charging the husband with a minor offence of cruelty, the punishment of which goes up to three years in jail or a fine. In worse cases, she can seek restraining order and protection under domestic violence legislation. 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 the level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, the mind-set of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament. The court in a case said “Defence counsel rightly argued that IPC does not recognize the concept of marital rape. If the complainant was a legally wedded wife of accused, the sexual intercourse with her by accused would not constitute an offence of rape even if it was by force or against her wishes”[1]

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in February 2007. The CEDAW Committee has recommended that the country should “widen the definition of rape in its Penal Code to reflect the realities of sexual abuse experienced by women and to remove the exception of marital rape from the definition of rape.”[2]

When society makes theft or murders a punishable offence, it does so not because everyone is a potential thief or murderer but to protect everyone from the few thieves and murderers. Are these laws misused? Yes, they are, all of them, and with a great frequency.

Despite the historical myth that rape by one’s partner is a relatively insignificant event causing little trauma, research indicates that marital rape often has severe and long-lasting consequences for women. The physical effects of marital rape may include injuries to private organs, lacerations, soreness, bruising, torn muscles, fatigue, and vomiting. Women who have been battered and raped by their husbands may suffer other physical consequences including broken bones, black eyes, bloody noses, and knife wounds that occur during sexual violence. Specific gynecological consequences of marital rape include miscarriages, stillbirths, bladder infections, infertility and the potential contraction of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV.

Also Read,

Marital Rape: Does Consent Matter?

Laws relating to Marital Rape in India

Sir Matthew Hale, Chief Justice in 17th Century England. Lord Hale wrote that: ‘the husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual consent and contract, the wife hath given up herself this kind unto her husband which she cannot retract”

But this statement cannot be considered appropriate as it has no case laws or arguments to base the view. Indian laws are advanced but not yet so strong to stand on its own and be capable to criminalize marital rape in India.

So, present laws favoring Marital Rape are Section 375 of Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 is an anti-rape bill which defines sexual offences and acts which are strictly considered and followed.

There are various social activists and NGO which help women who are suffering through marital rape and consults Domestic Violence Act, 2005 but are still unsuccessful to call marital rape a serious crime.

In the 42nd Report by the Law Commission, it was recommended that criminal liability should be attached to the intercourse of man with his minor wife. However, the Committee refused the recommendation stating that a husband cannot be guilty of raping his wife of whatever age since sex is a parcel of marriage. Further in 1983 with the addition of Section 376A IPC, rape of judicially separated wife was criminalized.

Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 consists the reasonable civil remedies for the violence against women which includes marital rape too.

On 23rd August 2005 Smt. Kanti Singh gave a speech on ‘the motion for consideration of the protection of women from Domestic Violence Bill, 2005’ in which she stated: “All acts of gender-based physical and psychological abuse by a family member against women in the family, ranging from simple assault to aggravated physical battering, kidnapping, threats, intimidation, coercion, stalking, humiliating verbal use, forcible or unlawful entry, arson, destruction of property, sexual violence, marital rape, dowry or related violence, female genital mutilation, violence related to exploitation through prostitution, violence against household workers and attempts to commit such acts shall be termed ‘Domestic Violence’.”  So, all these could be included in the ambit of the law.  There is nothing wrong with that. There is a wide range of assault on women. When we consider the historical facts and also what is existing now, I think, this law will do some justice.

Case Laws relating to Marital rape in India

Independent Thoughts vs. Union of India

The exception to marital rape, as applicable to minor girls, was declared unconstitutional for violating two fundamental rights: Article 14 and Article 21 Constitution of India.

The Supreme Court has stated in its judgment that:-

“It must be remembered that those days are long are gone when a married woman or a married girl child could be treated as subordinate to her husband or at his beck and call or as his property. Constitutionally a female has equal rights as a male and no statute should be interpreted or understood to derogate from this position. If there is some theory that propounds such an unconstitutional myth, then that theory deserves to be completely demolished.”[3]

“The right of a girl child to maintain her bodily integrity is effectively destroyed by a traditional practice sanctified by the IPC. Her husband, for the purposes of Section 375 of the IPC, effectively has full control over her body and can subject her to sexual intercourse without her consent or without her willingness since such an activity would not be rape.”[4]

The prosecutor for the NGO, who argues to raise the age of consent, rightly points out the anomaly that women between 15 and 17 years of age who are not married and have consensual sex will be deemed raped, as they are considered underage according to the POCSO Act. According to the terms of POCSO, any person below the age of 18 is a child. Therefore, the notion of “consent” does not have legal standing in their cases. Thus the exemption stands in contradiction with the IPC provision.

205th report on the prohibition of child marriage

The Union of India should be directed to amend the laws relating to the age of marriage and the minimum age of giving sexual consent so that both are in conformity with each other. The petition prays for the deletion of the explanation under section 375 IPC under which marital rape is not considered rape unless the wife is under 15 years of age. The provision relating to sexual intercourse with one’s own wife, the NCW suggested that “marital sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife without consent should also be considered as sexual assault.”[5]

Bhupender Singh V/s Union Territory of Chandigarh

In a decision relied on by the counsel, the Supreme Court stated that though there was a ceremony of marriage between the complainant and the accused, the accused was already married refused to examine the allegations in the complaint as marital rape[6]

Post the case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India it has become the source of all forms of right aimed at the protection of human life and liberty.[7]

Marital Rape: World status

Poland tops the list to recognize Marital Rape as a criminal offence in 1932. Australia, in the seventies, was another country to pass reforms in 1976 that made rape in marriage a criminal offence. Two decades before that, Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and former soviet union and Czechoslovakia passed laws that criminalized spousal rape.

Since this implementation, several countries like South Africa, Ireland, Canada, The United States, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Israel have abolished Marital Rape in the ’80s. Between the 1970s and 1993; all fifty states in the USA made Marital Rape a Crime. European Parliament’s resolution on Violence against Women of 1986 called for the criminalization of spousal rape which was done soon after by several nations including France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. House of Lords in the UK struck down its common law principle that a marriage contract implied a woman’s consent to all sexual activity and made it a criminal offence.

In 2002, Nepal recognized Marital Rape as a criminal offence after its Supreme Court held that it went against the constitutional right of equal protection and the right to privacy. Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania expressly allow spousal or Marital Rape. In four of these countries, it is permitted even when the victim is a child.

Ghanaian law, for example, states that “consent given by husband or wife at marriage, for the purposes of marriage, cannot be revoked,” unless the parties are divorced or legally separated. And spousal rape is only illegal if the perpetrator also uses abusive language, violence, or threats.

Our view concerning marital rape

Rape is a forcible seizure, or the ravishment of a woman without her consent, by force, fear or fraud. It involves coercive, non-consensual sexual intercourse with a woman. Rape can be viewed as an act of violence on the private parts of a woman, and outrage by all means. It’s even more shocking how our society tries to normalize the sexual violence committed on wives. It is like invisible sexual bondage, where one party decides the terms and conditions, and the other party agrees to perform. But if you decide to speak up against it, society will have issues with your culture. India’s most ancient cultural heritage of Veda must be thoroughly recollected in the context. The concept is marriage is ever sacred and it has been strictly advised to carry on the relationship only for procreation, not for the exploitation of dignity of woman or unusual indulgence to satisfy the carnal appetite because of the self-made superiority of the male community destined to go to their doomsday of consciousness because of wrongful utilization of the highest evolved being of creation as a man. Marital rape is a violation of Fundamental Rights and of Human Rights. Most of the developed countries have amended and repeals the exemption of marital rape. This replacement should also be made effective in India and marital rape should be criminalized under Indian Penal Code, 1860 as recommended in the 172nd Law Report

Secondly, the very definition of rape (section 375 of IPC) demands change. The narrow definition has been criticized by Indian and international women’s and children organizations, who insist that including oral sex, sodomy and penetration by foreign objects within the meaning of rape would not have been inconsistent with any constitutional provisions, natural justice or equity. Even international law now says that rape may be accepted as the “sexual penetration, not just penal penetration, but also threatening, forceful, coercive use of force against the victim, or the penetration by any object, however slight.” Article 2 of the Declaration of the Elimination of Violence against Women includes marital rape explicitly in the definition of violence against women. Emphasis on these provisions is not meant to tantalize, but to give the victim and not the criminal, the benefit of the doubt.

According to our society, it is not culturally possible for an Indian woman to get ‘raped’ by her husband, even if she dies screaming ‘no’. I personally fail to understand this argument. How can rape be a part of any culture? It’s deviance of social culture and the state has a responsibility to address it. Also, just because something is not a part of our culture, does that mean it’s not a reality? Theft, murder or burglaries, none of them are a part of our culture, but do we deny their occurrence, justifying that they are not parts of our culture? No, we don’t. Rather, we try to legally address these issues.

Why do we connect culture with a crime? Clearly, to dilute the crime, the state has no interest in making the husband angry.


The judiciary in India, by passing the much needed legal reforms can lead the way towards equality by encouraging women to come up and report cases against the violence they face and help them bring about a change in the way marital rape is viewed in society. Rape is rape and marriage cannot be an excuse for committing such a heinous offence. The judiciary in India, by passing the much needed legal reforms can lead the way towards equality by encouraging women to come up and report cases against the violence they face and help them bring about a change in the way marital rape is viewed in society. If the reformers see rape as a crime against a woman and her person and bodily integrity and humanity, then marital rape and its punishment would be a legal possibility.

“I say nothing, not one word, from beginning to end, and neither does he. If it were lawful for a woman to hate her husband, I would hate him as a rapist.” – Philippa Gregory

[1]The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

[2] visited on 31.5.2013

[3]Independent Thought, p. 52, para 82.

[4]Independent Thought, p. 56, para 88.

[5]The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,1948

[6]AIR2008(8) SCC 531

[7] AIR 1978 SC 597

Author: Riya Kumari, Editor Indian Legal Solution
University: ICFAI University, Dehradun


14 thoughts on “Marital Rape

  1. If a portal allows one sided wrong view to be propogating as reality then please stop calling yourself as a portal but rather call yourself as a feminist blog. If you indeed are feminist, as this article proves then please be upfront and don’t play disguise games.

    How conveniently is spousal rape of other countries is converted to marital rape in India. Does the writer highlight even once that all the countries mentioned accept the reality of husband’s being raped, which India doesn’t. Talking on Nepal, the so called marital rape law gives 3 to 6 months jail to husband. Our dv act gives 1 year jail for violation of protection order.
    Moreover in a country like hours where 53% of child rape victims are boys and 67% of young adults Rape victims are male, writing such one sided lies is indeed a big concern of social media.

    1. Firstly, simply justifying a specific gender and highlighting their problems won’t make the author a feminist or masculinist.
      I have given all statistics and facts to bring myself upfront and clear which if the reader won’t understand then may term it as some disguise game.
      Secondly, spousal rape and marital rape are the same term with the same meaning.
      So yes as other countries has their spousal rape clauses, we have marital rape.
      India governs on a male dominating society where no stastics will ever prove that india faces male rape cases more than females in a marriage.
      And the irrelevant stastics mentioned in your comment without any citation or base is actually a bigger concern in our society who is diverting the attention of our readers to a mere irrelevant clause.
      India has made the punishment for 1 year because we have more number of cases in our vast country which is more than nepal.
      All countries cannot run on similar laws and punishments.
      I hope the reader is satisfied.

      1. And research?? Really?

        Look at your references, first reference is a PERSONAL BLOG that you are showing as an evidence to prove your thought process.

  2. Looks like auther does not done proper research before writing this blog.

    Male rape is recognized internationally. But in india no protection of adult men from sexual harassment and domestic violence.

    Immediately work required to make all law gender neutral.

    1. The author won’t forward a article to publish without any proper research.
      Answer me in your proper conscience that what might lead to a bigger problem in India – male rape or female rape?
      The fact internationally people have not adopted a patriarchal society as we have done. And rape over females is a negative outcome of that which lead me to write this paper on the a bigger problem faced by us.

      1. Please first do some research on Patriarchy, it’s history, it’s effects and how it has bulldozed men. Just picking buzz words with no indepth understanding leads to such misleading blogs, termed as Articles.

      2. Have you done any research on Indian history and international history . Do you have any data or history for maligning our ancestors as patriarchal society . Our ancestors have well defined responsibilities for men and women, where men were supposed to do all work like outdoor work in hot sun , fight with swords in extreme conditions to save women and children , fight to his life to save dignity of women from outside invaders , farming in hot sun so that family ( including women ) can eat . Women has responsibility to fully handle the home. Both men and women used to handle their responsibility without complain . I am not sure how someone can be so selfish to the level that they can malign their own ancestors and demean/ devalue the sacrifice ot their own forefathers, just so as to attain some privileges for already privileged sex. While we have female defense minister ,female foreign minister ,female Supreme Court judge etc. etc. some females chose to blame (self made) patriarchy for their own incompetence .
        It is very disheartening when people blame our ancestors out of their ignorance or some hidden motives .

      3. While our ancestors had well defined responsibilities for both men and women , our current society is the only one in the history of India where only men has legally bound responsibilities with ZERO privilege while women has all the legal privileges with legally ZERO responsibility . If author has any doubt, it’s a challenge that author can reply me with ONE responsibility in Indian constitution or law or any act that has been specifically assigned to FEMALE while there are umpteen responsibilities assigned to male specially husband and only privileges to WIFE . There are umpteen laws to protect wife while ZERO law to protect husband. Does author thinks men don’t need any law for their protection , whether it be domestic violence , harassment or torture from wife . There is another challenge for the author, reply with one single law that is for protection for husband.
        Waiting for reply to my challenges, to see if author has done research with neutral mind or is it just part of feminist propaganda

  3. Although Article is Slightly Feminist type but Salute to this Writer for her courage to write this Article. People will Judge will according to their Talent so Don’t bother about that.
    Keep Going on.

    1. Writing a feminist blog doesn’t require any courage. These days it’s a trend and fashion to project men as a criminal.

  4. Yah, we can’t deny even in this modern era that all these things happen in our society and we despite of doing real ground work involve in just argument war and this same thing is happening in our country nowadays.
    Rapes are going on and we are classifying it on basis of caste. What a Shame for us and our society.

  5. Great work…This Article is really an eye opener for the society, and has the potential to be the bridge of change from traditional Indian society which is complete male dominated. Keep posting and raising on issues like this and bringing positive evolution in the society.

  6. Good article.
    I Support the view of Author but I would like to see another article on topic male rape by same author.

  7. Poor research in our indian culture if that law implementation no one get married every womens & mens shall be wonerding separately and leaving like animal..
    Because of western culture. our india very best to other country many culture, Festivals,traditional are there..nowadyas 97% womens getting advantages through the bad law and harass to mens so my opinon that please do again research 1960 to 1970s peoples and their parents life and then give that bad suggestions..

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