Supreme Court refuses to categorize Marital Rape as Criminal Offence

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The Supreme Court of India on Tuesday rejected a plea filed by a woman asking marital rapes to be categorized as a criminal offence. The SC ruling categorically mentioned that the plea was for a “personal cause” and not public cause.

The woman, an executive based in Delhi, informed the court that she had been subjected to prolonged sexual violence by her husband, but she had to suffer it helplessly as the law books don’t view it as a criminal offence.

The definition of rape as per Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, doesn’t categorize sex between a married couple – even without consent – as a violation of the law. “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape,” it says.

According to reports, Colin Gonsalves, the lawyer representing the woman has since withdrawn the petition and stated that they might re-appeal to the court through a women’s organization. Following intense pressure from many concerned parties, the Justice Verma Committee set up after the 2012 Delhi gang rape case suggested that martial rape should be included in the category of criminal offence. However, the government has so far been reluctant citing that doing so could potentially “destroy the institution of marriage” and push the “entire family system under great stress”.

A Parliamentary Panel later formed did not give into the demands of declaring martial rape a crime on the same ground (that it could “disturb a family”). However, it added that sexual assault by a husband on his wife during the period of judicial separation must be deemed a cognizable offence.

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