The Social and Legal Paradox Relating to Marital Rape in India: Addressing Structural Inequalities

20 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2015

Date Written: June 2, 2015


Recently when the Bill to criminalize marital rape was introduced in India, it was turned down by the Parliament. According to some of the Parliamentarians, marriage is a sacred institution and touching it will leads to breakdown of marriages. They are of the view that India should be proud of its culture because "the nation has low divorce rates". Statements have been issued against criminalizing marital rape without acknowledging the fact that most marriages in India survive because women silently endure violence and abuse within such relationships. The culture of "silence", "tolerance", "adjustment", "compromise" among women is propagated to "save and respect the 'honour', the 'pride' and the 'values'" of the Indian family overlooking the fact that incest, violence, suicides, murders are the price women pay. On the other hand there is a men’s group which is lobbying fiercely to highlight the fact the law against domestic violence has been misused by women and therefore should be diluted. They further propagated that the enactment of penal law against marital rape will also be abused by women. According to such arguments, a woman, who is not docile, subservient or compliant and complains about the continuous abuse within the conjugal relationship is an anti-family warrior breaking the sacred bonds while converting bedroom to a battlefield. Both the groups ignore the reality that most cases of emotional violence, sexual abuse, physical assault, mental trauma, all takes place within this "sanctified" territory because women are powerless and vulnerable and have been socialized to be pliant, obedient and subservient. This essay attempts to unpack the everyday possibility as well as reality of the lives of women in the light of backlash on women’s rights and looks at the debate on criminalizing marital rape from the gender perspective. It concludes that this concept needs to be examined in the larger perspective of violence against women and should be dealt accordingly.

Keywords: Marital Rape, India, Law, Violence Against Women, Criminal law, Women, Wives, Marriage, Hindu Marriage Act, women citizens, patriarchy, Assymtery, Inequality

Suggested Citation

Nigam, Shalu, The Social and Legal Paradox Relating to Marital Rape in India: Addressing Structural Inequalities (June 2, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Shalu Nigam (Contact Author)

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