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Exclusion of marital rape from the govt ordinance denies a woman's autonomy over her own body: Sucheta De

Updated: February 6, 2013, 6:54 PM IST
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Exclusion of marital rape from the govt ordinance denies a woman's autonomy over her own body: Sucheta De
How does the exclusion of marital rape from the govt ordinance impede the women's rights movement in India?

How does the exclusion of marital rape from the govt ordinance impede the women's rights movement in India? All India Students' Association's National secretary Sucheta De joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on the issue.

Q. The purpose of law is to act as a deterrent to any crime. I am strongly of that opinion that violation of a women's body is heinous crime, even by a legally wed husband. But do we have a technology to prove without doubt that a woman married for 10 years has been violated or raped by a husband? After all our IPC says that let go off a 10 criminals but do not punish a single innocent person. We can argue that if a person who is not willing to stay married to another person can always get divorced. What do you say? Asked by: Karthik

A. But how does the recognition of marital rape in law cause punishment of an innocent person. Let us not forget that once a case is filed, it goes to the court. The judicial process ensures justice. but if marital rape is not recognised in law itself, that means a woman does not have the right to even approach the police if she is raped. this way, non-recognition of marital rape does not ensure safety to an innocent, rather violation of a woman almost always. And it's not a matter of 10 years or one month after marriage. Let us ask ourselves, do we give a woman right to say no whenever she wants. And if we don't, then we ourselves are making marriages an instrument to violate women. Not an institution of consent.

Q. Sucheta, Does the sex education and gender sensitization in colleges will help to reduce rape crimes? How? In Tirupati, AP, a minor girl was raped by AP police on Feb 2nd,2013. Eleven Adivasi women raped allegedly by AP greyhounds police still didn't get justice. How do the victims get justice in case the rape crimes perpetrated by the security forces and police? Asked by: Soorya Chandra

A. Gender sensitisation would surely help a society respect the autonomy of women. Not only, in college, I would love to be a part of a nation which tells truth to its school-going children that our society is patriarchal. Let the structural problems of our society be mentioned in text books. Let us say that rape is not an outcome of sexual desire, but of patriarchal mindset. about the rape by security forces- not only the women's organisations, but people from north east, Kashmir, Chattishgarh, Jharkhand have demanded ending impunity to security forces. They have demanded withdrawal of security forces from their area. Laws like AFSPA are not acceptable in society. But the new ordinance has neither disapproved sanction for prosecution, not talked about review of AFSPA. This shows the problem with the ordinance.

Q. How does the exclusion of marital rape from the govt ordinance impede the women's rights movement in India? Asked by: Isha

A. Exclusion of marital rape denies a woman's autonomy over her own body. It gives marital power structure the legal sanction of violating a woman. Women's movement for long has been saying that women have to be treated as equal human beings. Their autonomy can not be sacrificed or violated in the name of societal or state institution.

Q. Why don't we ask for better implementation of existing laws rather than having new laws? Asked by: R Patel

A. We talk about changing the existing laws because the laws in themselves are gender insensitive. Even if those laws were or are properly implemented. Women would not get justice. For eg. till now, stalking was not recognised as a crime. In the recent rape and murder case in Faridabad, the accused used to stalk the woman. If it was recognised as a crime beforehand, most probably one more woman would not have been the victim of rape. In the present case, marital rape is not recognised. The armed forces, government officials enjoy almost hundred percent impunity in cases of rape as sanction is required for their prosecution. Moreover, why do you think implementation of gender-just laws are contradictory to making gender just laws. We are demanding both simultaneously.

Q. The ordinance remains silent on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Your views. Asked by: d_star

A. Verma committee had suggested two kinds of changes regarding the AFSPA. Firstly, it recommended that sanction for prosecution in case of rape should not be necessary. As even in conflict situation, no body would rape in self-defence. Rape is a crime of power where the rapist is actively engaged in violation, not in self-defence. Secondly, the JVC recommended review of AFSPA. This is something which is a part of AFSPA itself. By not recognising any of the two recommendations, the government has given clear signal that a woman's freedom is of least concern to the them. Even at the cost of women getting raped and killed, they would like to defend structures of impunity to powerful persons.

Q. Is govt's rape ordinance betrayal of the spirit of the Verma committee report? Asked by: HS

A. Definitely, it is. The perspective of the Verma committee to define rape was that of the women's consent. Women's consent being violated by whoever, the JVC recommended to consider it rape. In this way, the right of a women over her own body is of primary importance vis-avis any power structure. But the ordinance has just reverted this essence of Verma committee. It seems that our government is saying to the women through the ordinance that your consent do not matter. You do not have the right to say no to marital power structures, to military and institutional power structures.

Q. What change can the new law implementation can bring unless it is materialized? Asked by: deepak krishnamurthy

A. The present law can bring very few changes. Although, stalking, acid throwing etc have been recognised as crime, the ordinance leaves huge space for a rapist get away.

Q. How can marital rape be proved? If in a case the wife says her husband raped her and he says that it was consensual then without credible proof which is almost impossible in marital rape how can the judge believe her? Asked by: supratik

A. There are legal and medical-forensic methods to judge application of force. More than that, given the power structure engaged in a marriage, when a wife says it was not consensual, it has to be given primacy.

Q. How can a husband rape his wife? IMO, "rape" is not a valid term to be used there. If a husband forces his wife for sex then it turns out to be a personal issue than a social. Asked by: deepak krishnamurthy

A. So, do you think marriages are supposed to be licence for rape and force upon wives. If marriage is an institution where two grown up human beings decide to live with each other, then don't you think mutual respect has to be the basis. And in no case, violence and forcing on somebody else, is a personal issue. If a woman says she has given consent for any sexual interaction, then it is personal issue. Somebody should not have the right to force himself upon other when the woman is saying no, and get away by saying it is personal.

First Published: February 6, 2013, 6:54 PM IST
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