In India, a man raping his wife is considered legal. This statement can send shivers down the spine of any woman or, in fact, any person who cares about humanity. According to Section 375, Exception 2 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), “sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape.”
India is one of the 36 countries where marital rape hasn’t been criminalised. A study by the UN Population Fund states that more than two-thirds of married women in India, between the ages of 15 to 49, have been beaten, raped, or forced to provide sex. Numerous petitions and cases over the years have been dismissed on the ground that law shan’t change for one woman. The issue of marital rape has been long persistent in the country. The pandemic, however, just made it worse.
Statistics show the real picture
Between March 25 and May 31, 2020, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women. The National Commission for Women (NCW) alone registered 587 complaints in the first three weeks of the lockdown period. This was a steep rise from 396 complaints received in the past 25 days between February 27 and March 22. The three months of lockdown this year recorded more complaints than those received in the previous 10 years. Most of the cases were reported from the states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Haryana.
The coronavirus pandemic left people confined within the four walls of their houses, accompanied by the fear of lack of income, the growing threat of hunger, and an unstable future. Women had to deal with abusive partners inside the house and the virus outside. It was also reported that 86 percent of women who experienced violence never sought help, and 77 percent of the victims did not even mention the incidents to anyone. The pandemic had put all sorts of constraints on women to reach out for any sort of support from anywhere.
Remember you are not alone
Domestic violence is a worldwide issue. There are various ways to combat gender violence if the home is not a safe place. Make a safety plan in case violence against you escalates. You can start by identifying and confining in a neighbour, friend, or family member. Keep your essentials ready like documents, money, medicines, and clothes in case you need to leave the house immediately for safety. There are also quite a few NGOs that provide substantial help. If you are a victim yourself or know someone who is, you can contact these NGOs.
Guria India helps victims with rescue and legal intervention — right from filing an FIR to fighting the case with evidence.
ActionAid India’s Gauravi is the 24x7 one-stop crisis centre where victims are provided with counselling, medical help, shelter home as well as social rehabilitation.
Sayodhya runs a short stay home for women/young girls in distress and provides an emergency response through its 24 hours telephone helpline.
The Urja Trust is a non-government organisation that provides shelter to women who are homeless or have run away due to domestic violence and helps them become financially independent.
More than 50 helplines have been started in India for women facing domestic violence. These helplines are run by the police, women welfare departments, and NGOs, and are set up at national, state, and district levels. Uttar Pradesh Police launched a helpline number for domestic violence victims – 112 and the Kerala government and the NCW have launched a WhatsApp number – 7217735372.
The domestic abuse national helpline is 181 while women police helpline numbers are 1091 and 1291. State-specific helplines are also available. For eg., Delhi- Shakti Shalini- 01124373737, Mumbai Policewomen helpline - 022-22633333, and Haryana women and child helpline- 0124- 2335100.
There is a huge stigma regarding marital rape or domestic violence in general. In a society like ours, victim shaming is common and that’s one of the reasons why women hesitate to report abuses. Things like separation, legal confrontation, and divorce are looked down upon and most of the women refuse to leave their abusive partners. Instead, they seek advice on how to manage the situation. Staying with the aggressor and his family often takes a toll on women’s health and this needs to stop. Marital or non-marital, rape is rape and the government should deal with this issue with utmost urgency.
(Edited by Kanishk)