Opinion piece – written by Manya Kochhar, a grade 12 student.
Appropriate for ages 16 and above
It’s clear that India is a male-dominated country that follows a patriarchal system that values men more and perhaps gives them the power to rule over women. Although there have been reforms made to improve the status of women in India, they are still considered ‘second-class citizens’.
A major feminist agenda in India deals with the growing rape culture which is a matter of grave concern. Although there have been more open discussions about sexual assault and harassment, a particular problem that has yet to reach the limelight is Marital Rape.
Marital rape and harassment have been an issue as old as time. Yet in many cases, men and women refuse to accept it as a problem in itself. In fact, our Indian Constitution, which seemingly vests the ultimate authority to guarantee rights and protect the interests of all its citizens fails to mention the problem and penalise it. I was appalled when I found out that Marital rape is not criminalised in India rather the constitution only criminalises forced sex if the bride is under 15.
Firstly, I would point out that the bride, in any case, should not be under 15 as child marriage is prohibited, as it rightfully should be. It also led me to my final conclusion that the people, even those in ‘power’ or those ‘educated’ have failed to understand the true meaning of rape. In the case of marital rape, marriage itself does not give any green card to any sexual act until it is mutual between both parties. It’s important to understand that marriage does not equal consent and consent is a verbal agreement given at each step of the way.
Wives are not subject to the authority of their husbands. Marriage does not give men complete rights to a woman’s body. But in many cases, women comply and fail to address this issue. I believe their apprehension to address it or their simple oblivion to this wrong is our fault. All of us as a society. Gender roles and the idealisation of the perfect wife who caters to every need of the family continue to persist. This belief that the role of the woman is towards her home and hearth is no doubt incorrect but also leads them to believe that they need to fulfill all desires of their family and husband.
In India, 1 in 3 men has admitted to committing marital rape and consider it no wrong. Clearly, this statistic should be haunting to all.
The very first step to combat the problem should be to address it as an issue. When our country’s major representatives fail to do so, how will the public ever realise?
Therefore, there is a need to represent this issue further in the political sphere.
However, to do so, people need to come together and mobilise more support for marital rape and highlight the gravity of the situation. More importantly, the outlook of society has to change. This by no means would be simple and would take years, if not decades. However, to eventually reach our goal we must start somewhere. There needs to be more awareness. Women themselves have to be made to realise this issue. Secondly, they also need a platform and a further push to speak about it. They need a safe space where they are able to talk about these issues without fear or guilt.
A disintegration of this deep-rooted conditioning that sexual acts can be performed whenever under the control of the husband is much required. Such a breakthrough would only occur with widespread sexual education and its ultimate dismissal as a taboo topic. Clearly, there is a long road ahead, one with many stopovers and hurdles, but we must keep on going further for a better future.
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