UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Wome
The recommendations will be discussed in an inter-ministerial consultation on Monday.
Earlier, WCD minister Maneka Gandhi voiced her support on the view that marital rape was a form of violence against women and was “unacceptable”.
“My opinion is that violence against women shouldn’t be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man’s need for sex; it is about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness,” she had said.
This is in sharp contradiction to the government’s stand. “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat marriage as a sacrament,” Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhury, minister of state for home, had told Rajya Sabha in April.
Contradicting the argument, activists and champions of women’s rights, as well voices in the opposition ranks, have denounced the government stand as retrograde, with many pointing out that the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women has recommended to India that marital rape be criminalized. Justice J S Verma committee also recommended the criminalization of marital rape.
According to the UN Population Fund, more than two-thirds of married women in India, aged 15 to 49, have been beaten, or forced to provide sex. In 2011, the International Men and Gender Equality Survey revealed that one in five has forced their wives or partner to have sex.
Some of these concerns are likely to come up in Monday’s meeting that will include stakeholders from the government, civil society and non-government organizations.
Among the other issues that the high level committee on women has addressed are that age of consent must be revised form the present 18 years to 16 years. It has also suggested that rape by armed personnel in the place of or during their duty must be penalized and AFSPA be revoked.
The report has also recommended that the definitions of “cruelty” under the anti-dowry act be widened to include all forms of violence against women and the definition of dowry be expanded to include any property, valuable given directly or indirectly, before or after marriage in connection with marriage.
Honour crimes should be dealt with a separate legislation while police should take strict and immediate action to prevent archaic practices like witch-hunting, the report says. It has also suggested regulating sale of acid and similar corrosive substances to prevent acid attacks on women.