Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code explicitly allows a man to rape his adult wife. In 2015 RIT Foundation filed a petition seeking to close this loophole and criminalize marital rape in India. In January 2020, the petition was scheduled to be heard before the Delhi High Court.
Ahead of the hearing, we spoke to the RIT Foundation about marital rape in India and why the campaign matters.
Q: How much of an issue is marital rape in India?
A: Marital rape is a huge problem in India. 1 in 3 men admit to raping their wives, and 1 Indian woman is raped by her husband every 3 seconds. It is a crying shame that even after so many years marital rape has not been criminalized in this country.
Q: Why did you file the petition in 2015?
A: There was no contemporaneous trigger. We just felt that this was a just cause and should have been taken up.
Q: How many times has the petition been postponed?
A: For more than five years now. The petition was almost heard in full before a bench comprised of Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar.
Q: Why is it hard to even get a hearing?
A: It is hard to get a hearing because a lot of times the judges who are mandated to sit on the bench have conflicting schedules.
Q: Why is it important that the petition is heard?
A: It is extremely important for the petition to not be postponed because as we speak there are millions of women who are being raped by their husbands within the confines of their homes.
Q: Why do some people oppose this petition?
A: People say that cases involving marital rape are going to destroy the institution of marriage. This is not true. The truth is that rape destroys marriages.
Laws that permit marital rape treat women as the property of their husbands.
Equality Now’s report titled The World’s Shame: The Global Rape Epidemic found that India was one of only 10 out of 82 jurisdictions surveyed that still legalized rape within marriage and protected the rapist husband from prosecution.
Ensuring that marital rape is criminalized would make justice more accessible for all women, irrespective of marital status. It could also send a powerful signal that a woman always has the right to choose whether and with whom she has sexual relations.