The Delhi High Court has adjourned the hearing of a PIL seeking to criminalise marital rape till September 4th. During the hearing today, the acting chief justice quoted a Philippines Supreme Court ruling which described forced sexual intercourse, even in a marriage, as criminal.
In the court today, Petitioner’s lawyer Colin Gonsalves cited the judgments of US courts, EU and Nepal Supreme Court to argue in favour of criminalising marital rape.
He also referred to 2001 Nepal Supreme Court judgement that said, “to say husband can rape wife after marriage is to deny independent existence to women”.
Centre’s stand against criminalising marital rape has sparked a major debate on social media. On Tuesday, the Centre filed an affidavit in Delhi high court saying marital rape should not be criminalised as it “may destabilise the institution of marriage” and would become an “easy tool for harassing husbands”.
The Centre argued that “marital rape is not defined in any statue, while rape is defined under Section 375 of IPC”. It also urged the court to carefully consider the issue, keeping in mind problems like lack of financial empowerment for a majority of women, the society’s mindset, vast diversity and poverty.
“If all sexual acts by a man with his own wife will qualify to be marital rape, then the judgment as to whether it is a marital rape or not will singularly rest with the wife. The question is what evidences the Courts will rely upon in such circumstances as there can be no lasting evidence in case of sexual acts between a man and his own wife,” it added.
The affidavit was filed in response to a petition by an NGO, RTI Foundation, seeking to end the exception under Section 375 (rape) of the IPC which does not penalize sexual intercourse between a man and his wife if she is over 15 years of age.