Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Intimate betrayal ….The untold trauma

I had wanted to take up the issue of Marital rape for a long time now .The movie DAMAN by Kalpana Lajmi where Raveena Tondon plays the role of a marital rape victim, made me write about this heinous crime against women.

Violence against women within the family has become a major issue in our society.

Marriage is perceived as ‘socially sanctioned sex’. A legal right to a woman’s mind, body and soul.

I often see men commenting that they “allow “their wives to work, go out and engage in hobbies she likes or do certain other things and wonder who gave them the right to give permission? Do we lose our right as a human being to decide things for ourselves, the moment we get married, and become a slave to the man we choose as a partner for life and do only those things he ‘chooses” to “”allow” us to do.

Centuries of conditioning of male minds makes them believe that they have a right over women. Under the broad term of patriarchy women are treated as second class citizens at home, at work and as citizens in the society.

Domestic violence is itself a small part of the larger subjugation of women by men in society.

A woman is given to understand that her desires and dreams must henceforth be subject to those of her husband. Once married a woman feels guilty of denying her husband his conjugal rights. Under such conditions, many women find it difficult to talk about the physical violence that takes place under the guise of conjugal relations in the marriage. Any mention of rape or sex fills them with shame.

All over the world, steps have been taken to ensure that marital rape is regarded as an offence. In India, however, we do not even admit that marital rape is a reality, let alone a crime. Marital rape is an issue that has long been swept under the carpet. It is something no one wants to talk about.

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, says, “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, not being under 15 years of age is not rape.” Marital rape doesn’t even fall under domestic violence.

Quoting section 375

375. Rape.

A man is said to commit “rape” who, except in the case hereinafter excepted, has sexual intercourse with a woman under circumstances falling under any of the six following descriptions: -

First: - Against her will.

Secondly: -without her consent.

Thirdly: - With her consent, when her consent has been obtained by putting her or any person in whom she is interested in fear of death or of hurt.

Fourthly: -With her consent, when the man knows that he is not her husband, and that her consent is given because she believes that he is another man to whom she is or believes herself to be lawfully married.

Fifthly: - With her consent, when, at the time of giving such consent, by reason of unsoundness of mind or intoxication or the administration by him personally or through another of any stupefying or unwholesome substance, she is unable to understand the nature and consequences of that to which she gives consent.

Sixthly: - With or without her consent, when she is under sixteen years of age.

Explanation: - Penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offense of rape.

Exception: -Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.

Our laws do not consider marital rape as a crime and only in cases of excessive physical abuse; a woman can file a case for cruelty. Domestic violence is prevalent in many forms in the society and for most of them there is a legal remedy except Marital rape.

There are so many loopholes in the law, about gender, age, caste and so on.

Rape with in marriage is not just the violation of sex; it’s related to a woman’s consent. Her autonomy and bodily integrity are at stake all the time. It’s the violation of self-determination and breach of trust. Marital rape betrays the fundamental basis of marital relationship.

It is an issue of denial of the human rights of women.

I feel that having sex with a person at one time does not “imply” consent to any future sexual acts but in our society a woman is subjected to all kind of sexual atrocities against her will. Not only are wives commonly viewed as the property of their husbands, but more specifically, they are seen as the sexual property of their husbands. Illicit sex, sex on demand, forced sex and sometimes brutal, humiliating sex is experienced by innumerable woman in a marriage.

Unfortunately not many women are aware of the fact that there is a thing called marital rape as they are discouraged to talk openly about sexual issues even within marriage.

And those who are aware do not show enough courage to stand up for their rights for various reasons, social or personal

Many of the marital rape victims end up with HIV and STD’s, unwanted pregnancies and abortions, physical mutations or wounds physical as well as psychological because they lack necessary courage to deny sex without contraception.

The impact of sexual assault lasts a lifetime and the victim suffers from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Feelings of betrayal, anger, guilt, humiliation, fear of intimacy, acute fear of being assaulted again and denial are some of the repercussions of marital rape.

In India, a societal change is needed as much as a legal one. Along with strict laws women need to be courageous enough to come out and report the crime against them, and then only the law can be enforced.

Women go through the most unimagined forms of abuse under the name of marriage. Once we accept this reality we may be able to take the first step towards protecting women.

Until then women will continue to be abused and raped by the one person they trusted most.

Also- Economic empowerment of women is a must because that will break their dependence on men at home.

There are many questions that need to be answered

Is the law a suitable and sufficient remedy for marital rape?

Will women want to have police people intervening?

Will the police give protection to a woman against her husband?

Can a woman walk into a police station and file a complaint against the man she’s married to?

Will at least the women police officers come to her help?

Is the society ready to tackle such an issue?

While a law will help as a deterrent and also in extreme cases, it is equally necessary to raise the consciousness of people, especially men, regarding the status of women.

We need to be aware of our rights; it’s not just the man’s prerogative to enjoy a physical relation. A woman too needs to be a willing participant and not just a provider; she should be able to state when the lines are crossed. Women themselves must break free of societal shackles and fight for justice.

I hope all the men who read this post will take that first step needed to give women the respect and dignity they deserve.

All the women will show courage to come out and fight for their self respect and take the first step of saying “NO”.

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