The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday declined to drop rape accusations filed by a wife against her husband, defying a legal exemption, and instead called on lawmakers to heed the “voices of silence,” in a decision that might help influence the discourse on marital rape.
“Institution of marriage does not confer, cannot confer and in my considered view, should not be construed to confer, any special male privilege or a license for unleashing of a brutal beast. If it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband.”
“A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the ‘husband’ on the woman ‘wife’,” Justice M Nagaprasanna of the Karnataka High Court stated in a single-judge bench, declining to accept the husband’s plea that he cannot be tried for marital rape under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The court cited the “age-old…regressive” belief that “husbands are the rulers of their wives, and their body, mind, and soul should be effaced.”
In March 2017, the woman accused her husband of sodomy, severe sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and inflicting harm to her 9-year-old daughter. The police included section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with rape penalty, as well as sections 5 (m) and (l) and section 6 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, which deal with repeated penetrative sexual assault.
A review of the complaint and written exchanges, according to the High Court, “would send a chilling effect on any human being reading the contents of it. The wife-the complainant, cries foul in no unmistakable terms that she is being brutally, sexually harassed keeping her as a sex slave for ages”.
Despite the fact that the court did not explicitly strike down the marital rape exemption, the married man was required to stand trial for rape allegations filed by his wife. After a trial court found the offence under Section (376 rape), the husband filed a petition in the High Court.
“Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape,” says IPC Section 375, which defines rape.
The marital rape exception’s constitutionality is now being challenged in the Delhi and Gujarat High Courts.