11/03/2016 10:40 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST

Marital Rape Can't Be A Crime In India: Maneka Gandhi

Hindustan Times via Getty Images
NEW DELHI, INDIA - DECEMBER 22: Union Minister for Women & Child Development, Maneka Sanjay Gandhi at Parliament during the winter session, on December 22, 2015 in New Delhi, India. Parliament passed the juvenile justice bill, a day after members cutting across party lines agreed that the important legislation should be taken up immediately. (Photo by Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- In a complete volte-face on her earlier stand on marital rape, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has said it cannot be "suitably applied in the Indian context" due to factors such as poverty, illiteracy and religious beliefs.

Either the minister did not do her homework and failed to consider these factors back in June last year, when she called marital rape "unacceptable", or she has just decided to retract her stand for reasons best known to her.

Gandhi was asked in Rajya Sabha yesterday if the government plans to criminalise marital rape. Her answer was as follows:

"It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament etc."

Earlier, Gandhi's view was that marital rape is condemnable, and stemmed from a man's need to assert power over a woman. In fact, she did not mince words during an interview with journalists in June last year when she said: "My opinion is that violence against women shouldn't be limited to violence by strangers. Very often a marital rape is not always about a man's need for sex; it is only about his need for power and subjugation. In such case, it should be treated with seriousness."

Replying to another question, Gandhi said the scheme for universalisation of women helpline has been approved for implementation through states/UTs from April 1 last year to provide 24-hour emergency and non-emergency response to women affected by violence both in public and private sphere, including in family, community and workplace.

"All the states/UTs have been requested to submit the proposals in order to release funds. Funds have been sanctioned/released to 33 states/UTs for setting up Women Helpline," she said.

The ministry has also conceptualised an idea of women welfare committee in all districts of the country, however, no such proposal has been formulated so far.

(with PTI inputs)

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