Marital Rape Should Be Regarded As A Serious Offence : Prof. Supinder Kaur

Koral ‘Purnoor’ Demokretic Front, Chandigarh – 05 December :

Marital Rape should be regarded as a serious offence, stated Prof.Supinder Kaur, Professor in the Department of Laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh in an Interaction Session on Marital Rape. The Session was organised by DCWSD as part of its ongoing activities for 16 Days Activism Against Gender Based Violence. Welcoming the Resource person, Prof. Manvinder Kaur, chairperson of the Dept-cum-Centre for women’s Studies and Development said the issue of marital rape raises significant questions for which it is difficult to find answers. The present session is a beginning in the direction of a dialogue on the issue.

Stating that India is one of the 36 countries where marital rape has not been criminalised, Prof.Supinder Kaur  highlighted a number of issues and contradictions in the law in relation to the problem of marital rape beginning with the fact that the issue comes under both family law as well as criminal law.  She highlighted a number of contradictions in the law  such as even consensual sexual relations with a wife below 18 years of age is rape but non-consensual sexual relations with wife above 18 years of age may not be regarded as rape.  A recent judgement has led to a debate on whether this exception should be removed. Another issue raised by her was in relation to the right to privacy as held in the Puttuswamy case. Right to privacy implies no interference with the private life of a couple, but when a woman is the victim, not taking cognizance of the issue of assault is an infringement of her fundamental rights. Another contradiction lies in the fact that abortion after rape is permissible, but there are conditions for abortion in the case of a married woman who is pregnant due to marital rape. The law is silent over a married woman’s right over her own body.  Being lawfully married implies that the woman has given consent. She concluded by asserting that there should definitely be a law relating to marital rape.

Dr.Gaurav Gaur, Director Public Relations, Panjab University, in his address raised the issue of women being more vulnerable to a number of problems particularly HIV as a result of sexual violence within marriage.  She is blamed and thrown out of the house even when it is clear that she has got the infection from her husband. In such instances, a woman should be able to approach the courts and ask for justice.

Prof.Pam Rajput, Professor Emeritus in Department cum Centre for Women’s Studies also stressed upon the need to have a law relating to marital rape. She stated that India, having ratified CEDAW is bound by the recommendations given by the CEDAW Committee which have stressed upon a law on marital rape. However, our social understanding continues to be backward.

The session was attended by faculty, research scholars and students from various departments of Panjab University.