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Karnataka HC ruling on marital rape seeks to hear ‘voices of silence’

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’, rules the court

Marital rape is a sensitive issue that has been debated threadbare in social and legal circles. There have been many reported and unreported instances of the crime in Indian households, and a concrete measure that classified it as rape has never come through. And now, the Karnataka High Court ruling on the issue of marital rape has all in it to trigger some serious debate on the crime.

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday refused to quash rape charges filed by a wife against her husband. This was in fact setting aside the exception in law and has prompted lawmakers to hear what the court said were the “voices of silence.” As per the single-judge bench of Justice M Nagaprasanna of the Karnataka High Court, “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’.”

The ruling, commendably enough, trashes the old, regressive belief that husbands have full control over their wives, including their body, mind and soul. Though the marital rape exception was not fully and explicitly struck down, the court made it a point to make the married man to face trial for rape charges brought by his wife.

Husbands should face trial for sexual assault on their wives

It may be noted here that the IPC Section 375 that defines rape comes with an exemption, and that goes thus: “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.” The Constitutionality of the marital rape exception is currently under challenge before the Delhi and Gujarat High Courts, said a report.

The latest High Court ruling came after the husband knocked at the High Court door after a trial court took cognisance of the offence under Section 376 (rape).

Such acts of husbands scar the soul of the wives

Stressing that the institution of marriage does not confer, cannot confer and should not be construed to confer any special male privilege or a license for unleashing of a brutal beast, Justice Nagaprasanna pointed out that “if it is punishable to a man, it should be punishable to a man albeit, the man being a husband.”

Justice Nagaprasanna was quoted by a report as saying that a brutal act of sexual assault on the wife, against her consent, albeit by the husband, cannot but be termed to be a rape. The court went on to add that “such sexual assault by a husband on his wife will have grave consequences on the mental sheet of the wife, it has both psychological and physiological impact on her. Such acts of husbands scar the soul of the wives. It is, therefore, imperative for the lawmakers to now hear the voices of silence,” the court said.

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Sanjeev Ramachandran

A journalist with 23 years of experience, Sanjeev has worked with reputed media houses such as Business Standard, The Ne More »
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