Defending marital rape means knowing a Miss can’t let a man touch her, a Mrs can’t tell him not to

May 2, 2015, Economic Times i

By Shinie Antony

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 Parthibhai Chaudhary, Minister of state for home, April 29, 2015, in Rajya Sabha In Indian fairy tales, the girl grows up utterly fair, just educated enough to understand instructions on how everyone likes their rotis and the entire family guards her hymen while she prays and fasts for a groom. After marriage, she uninterruptedly gives birth to son after son before she dies of uterine complications, leaving husband to marry her younger sister. Ah, says India, wiping a tear and locking up its girls for the night, what a beautiful story!

Women have to be chaste, so chaste that convents throw them out for being too chaste. Their body is to be given to whoever calls dibs on it. If they dare dream of being wooed, aroused or satiated, then they have to fight a sea of gropers, an archaic law and argue with politicians who are sweetly illiterate about sex.

As seen in Hindi films, when chased by a rapist, heroines jump off buildings. This way, at the funeral, everyone can comment on the glow on the corpse’s face courtesy its continued virginity. Definitely death above rape until marriage, after which it changes to rape above death. If you cannot let a man touch you as a Miss, as a Mrs, you cannot tell him not to touch. A well-meaning society and a senile legal system will personally lock you in with your rapist and chuckle fondly when you cry.

Single or Raped?

If there’s been a wedding ceremony, then you must share your vagina with whoever takes you home. And if you say, er, no, not now, not today, maybe never, there’s a good chance of some force, a slap or two to set the mood. The real reason India banned the film, Fifty Shades of Grey, was because of all that nonsense about asking her permission before you start beating. With all our sanskaar and parampara, a blow to the head is foreplay to most women.

Coitus is a boy thing, an entitlement, a ‘palang tod’ act. The male motto perhaps being: have marriage certificate, will rape. Sex is a matrimonial perk, a promotion from generally gawking at females to getting personal with one allotted female. A good man can rape his wife. It is only his neighbour’s wife he has to think twice before raping.

Yes, all rapes are not rapes. For a rape not to be a rape, the woman has to be married to the rapist. Marrying the man pre-, post- or during the rape is preferable to having consensual sex with a man of own choosing.

In many parts of India, the shame you bring on your family by thoughtlessly getting raped is only lessened by immediately marrying your rapist and having his babies. Because that is what he had been trying to say in his typical shy traditional way — that he loves you and wants to rape you forever. This little rape is just an icebreaker, a hello, before everyone falls at his feet begging him to marry the woman whose face he cannot remember because it had been dark when he raped. After that brief encounter in a back alley, the victim meets her rapist the next time in a flower-bedecked bed in her own home to be raped at leisure.

Criminalising marital rape is against our family values, we all know that. Yes, the J S Verma Commission mumbled something two years ago about making marital rape illegal. But let’s not overreact to gang-rapes in buses, okay? And we have all read the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: it is a wife’s duty to sleep with husband. What if the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Israel, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia and, this year, Bolivia have all criminalised marital rape, that is just a lot of western blah.

Our culture is different, a lot older and more, well, manly. And please don’t even quote that UN report on 75% of married women here being routinely raped by their husbands. They should be thankful someone married them in the first place.

Sex and the Pity

Our ministers misquote Jane Austen, “A rapist in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The government defines rape as sex with a man you are not married to. The Indian Penal Code blushes at the very mention of rape and can only pull its ghoonghat further down its face at the very notion of husbands being rapists. Chee, says every section of the Indian Penal Code. What are you saying?

Women must feel unsafe even when asleep in their own bed at night. That is part of the whole Bharatiya nari experience. If you are old enough to be married, you are old enough to be raped.