A Brief History of Stupid: Marital Rape in India Edition
In India, we tend to hold up Pakistan as a country plagued with systemic and social blunders. So, when the Council of Islamic Ideology recently proposed a bill suggesting it’s OK for men to “lightly” beat their wives, we rolled our eyes at Pakistan*, breathed a quick prayer for its women, and heaved a sigh of relief for not living in such a country.
Except… while India criminalizes wife-beating, raping wives – lightly or otherwise – isn’t a problem. In fact, when the topic of marital rape crops up – as it has recently, thanks to Bollywood stuntwoman Geeta Tandon sharing her inspiring story — you hear gems that leave you gaping.
For anyone whose jaw needs some exercise, here’s a brief history of marital rape in India, a collection of the most profound, most discerning thoughts – and, of course, our responses.
First up, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs’ report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, in response to a judicial committee’s recommendation of criminalizing marital rape in India; each point deserves individual treatment:
“ …several Members felt that the marital rape [sic] has the potential of destroying the institution of marriage.”
Who knew the institution of marriage was built from such flimsy stuff?
“The Committee felt that if a woman is aggrieved by the acts of her husband, there are other means of approaching the court.”
Of course there are. What were we thinking? Women should follow the example of all the people out there filing murder charges as ‘theft of life.’
“In India, for ages, the family system has evolved and it is moving forward. Family is able to resolve the problems and there is also a provision under the law for cruelty against women.”
And for the family’s next trick, it will evolve into a rabbit! A completely unbiased rabbit capable of adjudicating crime within its own self! And it will evolve right out of this top hat. Ta-daaa!
“It was, therefore, felt that if the marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress and the Committee may perhaps be doing more injustice.”
Oh, the family justice system will be stressed? Poor thing. Here’s a Paracetamol. Hope her husband doesn’t rape her tonight when she tells him she’s not in the mood.
While we’re at it, let’s make fratricide, matricide and patricide legal. These are family issues, after all, and fewer people in the world might make it easier on the entire family system.
“According to the home secretary, marital rape is difficult to define. In India, marriage is a sacred institution, and to include marital discord and resultant abuses as offences would be tantamount to delivering a blow to the social fabric, he argued.”
But a blow to the vagina? No problem. Married lady parts: Hardier and cheaper than social fabric! More durable than the institution of marriage! Flame- and stain-resistant! Best used as skid cloth for moving national furniture. Or as a circus tent to house the Centre ring.
“People these days get divorced over insignificant issues. Marital rape shouldn’t be made into a criminal offence.”
— Sumitra Mahajan, BJP MP in a Lok Sabha address
In the immortal words of the philosopher Big Bird: One of these things is not like the others.
A banner year. We couldn’t find any Notable Thoughts On Marital Rape In India ™.
“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, mind-set of the society, to treat marriage as sacrosanct.”
– Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, Minister of State for Home in a Rajya Sabha address
Deep thoughts indeed, and a lesson to all of the abused wives out there writing out their protests to their illiterate husbands who rape because they can’t read.
It must be because marriage is not sacrosanct internationally that people in other countries are not allowed to use the institution of marriage as a shield against criminal prosecution when they physically harm each other.
If marriage is to be sacrosanct, shouldn’t the two individuals in it also be sacred?
“We have a law already on violence against women and that includes marital rape. The point is that there has never been a complaint under it, never… ”
— Maneka Gandhi, Woman and Child Development Minister
Of course there’s never been a complaint. It’s far too much fun playing Marriage Counsellor From Hell with the cops. It was our second-favourite pretend game, when we were girls, right after pretending our bodies were our own.
*For the record: Pakistan dropped the “other than the wife” exclusion in its rape law in 2007. If you roll your eyes, they might get stuck like that.