Sameera was a young, chirpy, 22 year old getting married into a well-off family.
Though, she did not know the groom very well and had not met him until her engagement day, she trusted her parents, that they had chose for her. She was waiting to settle down and make a household: ‘Her Home’.
The horror began a month after her marriage. She wanted to get to know her husband before she got intimate but apparently her husband did not find this to be a necessary condition, for he felt that he owned Sameera’s mind, soul and definitely her body.
He would never ask her, rather, would just grab her after dinner every night and drag her into the bedroom to brutally de-robe her and inflict pain to most personal and intimate parts of her being. When she would try and protest, he would behave animal like- scratching, biting and swatting her. Her body, gradually started reflecting the injuries. She was bewildered as to why her husband would even think of doing something like this to his lawfully wedded wife. He threatened her, that if anyone came to know about this, she would be at the receiving end of his wrath.
To top it up, both her family in law and the maternal one, regularly told her that they had great hopes from their marriage: Nobody cared to look deep and beyond her happy facade, as to how hollow her smile was, and her eyes held but nothingness, or the drastic change in her otherwise happy-go-lucky personality. They overlooked how it was different around her own husband and everybody else.
She talked less every passing day, reacted to even the tiniest of noises, and was withdrawn and subversive. In her own free time she wondered about how she would reduce the pain and injuries those were inflicted upon her every single night.
She never wanted it, any of it- not even by her own free will. She did not feel in the slightest, that she was ready enough even now to be intimate with a strange man, who was sadly her husband.
But apparently he did not even think about asking her, her opinions. For him, it was all written in the scriptures, and she was bound to do it all submissively as a dutiful wife.
4 months later Sameera feigned illness and went back to her parents. 2 months after her return when her parents forced her to go back to her in laws- the pressure was too much for her to bear, and she committed suicide.
She was clueless, as who was the right person to confide in her trauma- physical and mental. She wasn’t sure if she was shirking her duties.
All she knew was, such brutal violation of her body and mind was too much for her to handle.
Such is the scenario of marital rape, that happens almost in every nook and corner of India.
Sadly, though, our ‘Country’ does not consider it a crime.
Sameera is not the only victim, there are women all around the world, especially in India facing this trauma every day or at least on a regular basis.
Around the world, 25% of the rape cases are those of marital rapes. In India two thirds of women between 15 and 49 have faced the consequences of marital rape, and many have chosen to simply live in the fear of what would happen; if they did not submit to the temper and the demands of their husbands.
Women in our country especially, have been born and brought up in a culture where they are expected to submit to even the most unreasonable demands of men and often those who protest can be derided, abused and tortured further more.
When Justice Verma’s committee put forth the suggestion of criminalizing the act, in the light of the 16th December gang rape, it was opposed in the parliament on the grounds, that it would shake the foundations of the ‘Indian family system’.
Many researchers, lawyers and social groups are lobbying to change this decaying system, yet our leaders are adamant: not to accept the heinous crime of marital rape as a crime, for they are scared that if a woman can drag her spouse to the court, very soon she will also be staking a rightful claim on private property and eventually, will be a person of her own.
As The Guardian’s coverage of the 16th December trials pointed out- In India a woman is never a person of her own. She is always somebody’s daughter, mother, sibling or a spouse. “
Cultural norms and social stigma often attached to rape can, and by large, do discourage reporting of marital rape. Sometimes the wife isn’t even sure because if a husband goes against her explicit consent, she feels that he may have a right to do that to her.
Marital rape is often treated as a lesser or no crime at all in many countries, and is an evidence of social patriarchy.
Globally, marital rape is a crime under ‘International Law’ according to the UN General Assembly and was specifically mentioned in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
In India, though, it is treated only as a form of domestic violence where if the victim can prove marital rape shall receive compensation. It thus provides only civil remedies to one of the debilitating acts that can possibly be perpetrated since rape is very narrowly defined in our country. The trouble is marital relationships are considered sacrosanct, yet the result of this is. that victim has to live with physical, mental and emotional damage throughout.
Rape is often not about sex but it is an act of domination. In a country rife with misconceptions about rape and changing social values, globalization needs to fast alter the letter of the law.
What this also calls for is- ‘Gender Sensitization’ in our children from a young age.
– Columnist, Hello Dilli