Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Myth: Marital Rape is not applicable in India!

An UN Report says that seventy five percent of married women are victims of marital rape in India. In fact, UNO has recommended to India to consider marital rape as crime like rape elsewhere. Yet, Government of India tells its Parliament 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, poverty, social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of society to treat marriage as sacrament." "This is despite a strong recommendation by Justice J S Verma Commission, set up to strengthen anti-rape laws following the brutal Delhi gang-rape and repeated plea from activist". In fact, countries like Canada, Australia and South Africa treat marital rapes as crimes.

Then, what is so special about India? Its culture says the Minister of State for Home. Which Indian culture? Is it the culture of Medieval India which was subjugated to Foreign Rule for nearly thousand years and whose atrocities on our women made us set up new codes of morality on our women? India of the ancient culture, the times of Vedas and Upanishads, which we often quote as our treasures of heritage and culture, have a totally different treatment of women where they were equal to the best of men as well. There were more than thirty women rishis (rishike) who contributed mantras in the Rig veda including a brilliant exposition of a revelation by rishike VagAmbruNi. There were greater freedom for women even in choice of partner in marriage, brahmacharyena kanya yuvanam vindate patim 'after studies the girls used to go in search of youth as their husband'. Girls used to study vedas along with boys. After marriage, the wife, the daughter-in-law, is considered as Queen, samrajni, to all the family members including in-laws and husband. Women were involved in highest debate on philosophical issues like  Gargi who challenged the outstanding scholar and teacher, Yajnavalkya,  in the open court and even Yajnavalkya's wife Maitreyi thrown equally brilliant questions like Gargi to Yajnavalkya that is narrated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Widow marriage was allowed too in certain situation, situation stated being quite liberal and rational. The role and status of women of those period was brilliantly expounded, apart in the writings of ancient Rishis, by the modern Aurobindo, Kapali Shastri, R L Kashyap and upto the recent Dr. Jayanthi Manohar.

Indian culture is coming in the way of considering marital rape as crime may be, if at all, only partially true in the existing uneducated minds of people, an ugly truth at that. There is a greater wholesome truth that the ancient culture had given equal if not greater respect to women to which we must resolve to adhere to for the sake, for the best interest, of men, women and the nation. There is a need for introducing a massive awareness programme to educate men on the true nature of women and then to empower women to reach their true potential. Equal participation of men and women with their unique talents alone can usher in greater peace, harmony and prosperity with a balanced growth to the Nation. Instead, to say that our culture is against considering marital rape as crime, as the Minister did, is not only inhuman but also smacks of strengthening male chauvinism and even more victimisation of women by men.

Rape is a crime whether it occurs in wedlock or otherwise, it is an insult and an assault on human dignity and freedom. It is high time that Government of India consider marital rape as a crime and come to the rescue of seventy five percent of harassed and victimised Indian married women too. It is ridiculous to say that marriage is sacred in India and hence marital rape be allowed, barbarism can never be sacred even to barbaric.

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