Marital rape and the law


A rare editorial on gender violence, from today’s Indian Express.

An offence, of course

It is a cry that is often muffled within the walls of a home, and one that cannot find justice easily even when it reaches the hallowed halls of our courts. For marital rape is still not spelt out as an offence in India. Which is why, when the government conveyed to the Supreme Court the necessity to treat forced sex between husband and wife as rape and amend laws accordingly — the proposal was made a couple of years ago by the Law Commission — the sense of urgency with which we have to respond to violence against women calls for reiteration.

Section 375 of the IPC archaically qualifies sexual intercourse between husband and wife as rape only if the wife is less than 15 years old.

Women have to take recourse to 498-A of the IPC to protect themselves against “perverse sexual conduct by the husband”, or to the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. A serious debate on marital rape, combined with a willingness to change laws, began again last year, when the department of legal affairs drafted the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, based on recommendations of the women and child development ministry and the National Commission for Women. The intention was to amend various sections of the IPC, the Criminal Procedure Code, and the Indian Evidence Act to recognise new categories of sexual assault. We can no longer afford to dither on this. We need to debate this as well, without treating marital rape as taboo or resorting to euphemisms, but looking at it as a social, criminal problem.


Honour killing to be criminal offence in India


Nagendar Sharma, Govt to make honour killing heinous crime, Hindustan Times, January 31, 2010.

The government is set to amend the 150-year-old Indian Penal Code to define honour killing as a heinous crime by adding a new section to the criminal law, with punishment ranging from life imprisonment to even a death sentence.

The move follows the growing demands to curb the social menace of killing young girls defying their families in marriage related issues, in some north Indian states particularly Haryana, Western Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

So far, honour killing is not a classified crime in India, and no separate data is available of such cases with the National Crime Records Bureau.

The proposal moved by Home Ministry, has been cleared by the Law Ministry and the government is likely to move a Bill in Parliament in the coming Budget session, after getting the cabinet nod.

“We have completed our preparations to put in place a strong deterrent against the pervert practice of honour killings not only against those who carry it out, but against those who abet it also,” Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily told Hindustan Times.

The government has shelved its plan to bring a fresh law to curb such killings, and has decided to amend the IPC, the law that prescribes punishment for criminal offences.

The new definition of honour killing will carry the same punishment as that of murder — ranging from a minimum of life imprisonment to a maximum of death sentence.

Till now, there was no clarity on how those responsible for such killings, particularly of girls, should be booked, said a senior ministry official.

“Though the police treated these cases as that of murder, but it was a grey area till now,” he said.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram had assured the Rajya Sabha on July 28 last year that the government was considering “a fresh definition” for honour killings.

“Caste panchayats aid and abet honour killings. Principle actors in such panchayats need to be arrayed as accused and prosecuted for murder… Reasons for such killings have remained closely guarded secrets in many cases so far,” Chidambaram had told the House.

The government is also considering changes in the Special Marriage Act to simplify the procedure of marriage between consenting adults belonging to different religions, and also to the Evidence Act to shift the burden of proof in cases of honour killings on the accused.

The United Nations, in its two reports in 2002 and 2009, had expressed concern on honour killings in Asia. “But India was not mentioned in this context,” said a senior government official.