Recently, the Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary shared his views on marital rape in response to Kanimozhi's question on whether the law would be amended to make it a crime. He didn't think so, since "marital rape cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context" as marriage is considered "sacrosanct" here.
What is most worrying is the mindset of these ministers, who seem to be quite oblivious to what their words imply. In essence, Mr. Chaudhary is saying that it is okay for a man to rape a woman he is married to. By law! This is exactly the kind of thing that makes a mockery of our official stance on gender equality, women empowerment and feminism. How can we talk about a "progressive" India when our misogynistic, regressive leaders are hell-bent on leading India back to the Stone Age?
That even the attempt has been made to categorise rape into different levels of acceptability based on societal and cultural parameters is mind-boggling. When sex is not consensual and a man has forced himself on a woman, whether they are married, engaged, dating or complete strangers, rape is still rape and in no conceivable case can it or should it be deemed acceptable.
For Ms. Barkha Dutt who recently sparked a debate with regards to her defensive stand on the safety of Indian women as compared to their Western counterparts at the Women in the World Summit in New York, I have this question: Would any US minister have the same perception of rape as Mr. Chaudhary? Would any of these other countries you mentioned consciously allow marital rape to take place by law? While I am aware that violence against crime is a global problem, it is clearer now than ever why India is sometimes referred to as the "rape capital of the world".
Ms. Dutt may have been attempting to defend her country, but I am certainly not in her corner in this argument. India's problem is the mindsets of her people, the rampant misogyny and a deep-rooted indifference to the safety of women even within the strata of society that have been entrusted to make decisions for the upliftment and progress of its citizens.
As an Indian woman who is deeply affected and saddened every time I read about incidents of gender violence, it only deepens to wound when I hear the people running my country blatantly stating that some types of violence are just fine and legally acceptable.
Yes marriage is sacred in the sense that it involves the union of a man and woman in a presumably endless lifetime of mutual respect, love, support and togetherness. But the sanctity of marriage by no means allows the barbaric, non-consensual physical and mental violation of one person by another.
Hiding behind weak excuses of culture, tradition, values, social customs and the sanctity of marriage to escape amending Section 375 of the Indian Penal code to include marital rape as a crime is just another way we are failing the women of our country.
And subsequently, any hope of progress too.