IPC  entitles husband to have forced sex

Dec 24, 2012, 06.22AM IST TNN[ Hetal Vyas ]

Forget roads and public transport. Married women in India are helpless even in their own bedrooms. For, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not even categorize ‘marital rape‘ or ‘forced sex by husband’ as a cognizable offence.

With the law of the land silent to their plight, many married women have no choice but to surrender to their husbands’ sexual whims.

Earlier this month, a bench of the Delhi high court turned down an appeal filed by a woman seeking action against her husband for marital rape. The court said there is no provision in the IPC to seek action against a husband for forced sex. The judge noted that if the couple is legally married, then it is the husband’s right to have sex with the wife.

Advocate Geeta Menon says, “In India, marital rape happens only if the couple is legally separated and the husband still has forced sex with the wife. Else, there is nothing called marital rape. Also, there is no provision in the IPC to seek action against the husband for forced sex.”

But the absence of law does not mean that rapes don’t happen within marriages. Advocates dealing with family matters admit to receiving several briefs where women complain of being forced to have sex by their husbands notwithstanding their psychological and physical state. Sex without consent is at most addressed as an issue of cruelty in a marriage, they say.

Senior counsel Pramila Nesargi says: “I have come across several cases where the wife has been forced to have sex without her consent. Not many women come out openly to discuss marital rape and seek divorce on this ground.”

The trouble, experts say, is that marriage in India is seen as a licence to have sex. Lawyers admit that differences in perception are at the root of most marital disputes. There is no family or legal support for Indian women when it comes to marital rape. They just have to suffer it silently. This can be changed only with the help of women’s empowerment

Dr Shaibya Saldanha | Gynecologist and co-founder, Enfold India Trust

Any sex without love or affection is rape. Many a time women are forced to have sex even during menstrual cycle or illness, which is no less than rape

Pramila Nesargi | Senior counsel

It is seen as a right of the husband to have sex with the wife with or without her consent. Marital rape just does not happen in our society within the marriage

Geeta Menon | Advocate

Lurking depravities

Sunayana and Anil (names changed), a well-educated couple residing in Ulsoor, were married for 10 years. The couple had two sons. Anil used to travel at least 10 days every month on business. Anil used to turn into an animal once he returned home from his business trips. “He used to straightaway drag Sunayana into their bedroom. Sunayana was fed up with sex and she sought divorce. But once the court granted custody of her children to Anil, a distraught Sunayana killed herself.