Marital Rape

It was another man wrongfully attempting to take what was their possession, their property without their consent. Keeping in mind that women were considered little more than chattel, this definition took rape to be a crime against the husband or the father. Marital rape is non-consensual sex where the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse or an ex-spouse. Applying the above analysis to the definition of marital rape brings us to the conclusion, is it even rape? Certainly our ancestors wouldn’t have thought so. Because why would a man need consent from his own property?

Women were little more than wholly owned subsidiaries, who were expected to supply sex at any time, as a part of their ‘marital duty. Then the feminist movement came, which gave rise to the concept of rape being a crime against the woman. It refuted and ridiculed the idea of rape being a crime against anyone but the victim. Although this movement was successful in raising awareness and bringing changes in the legal and societal outlook on rape, it failed to do so in the case of marital rape, which remains either condoned or ignored by many legal systems. The reasons for this have been explained in the next section.

Conventionally, women were considered the legal equivalent of a minor, who needed heir guardians to ratify their every act and be responsible for them. They belonged first to their fathers and then to their husbands. Being little more than chattel, the wife had no say in the marriage and was merely expected to ‘be a good wife’ whenever the husband demanded it. This notion, sadly, remains unchanged in many to be sexually available. Thus, it followed that a spouse could not legally revoke consent to sex, and where there was consent there could be no rape.

Married women have always been treated as black sheep when it comes to rape. Socially or legally, hey hardly have any remedy for the wrong committed against them. “It is little wonder that rape is one of the least-reported crimes. Perhaps it is the only crime in which the victim becomes the accused and, in reality, it is she who must prove her good reputation, her mental soundness, and her impeccable propriety. “- Fared Adler The above quote was also applicable in the case of marital rape. A woman claiming that her husband forced himself on her was scorned and argued to have brought it upon herself.

She had to prove herself that this perverse act actually happened and that she would not be okay with it. LEGAL- In many countries, women were not legally permitted to take part in any economic activity without their husband’s consent. In Spain, a woman had to get a man’s permission even for traveling away from home. A woman was considered dependent on a man to such an extent that in 1707, English Lord Chief Justice John Holt described the act of a man having sexual relations with another man’s wife as “the highest invasion of property”.

This is why rape was considered a similar crime to adultery, for they both intended to injure a man’s reputation. All these legal provisions only strengthened the duplicity in the treatment of marital rape. FACTORS- PSYCHOLOGICAL Marital rape leaves a woman feeling more traumatized and disturbed than rape by a stranger. This is partly because, in cases of marital rape, the incident is hardly ever isolated but rather, almost always, accompanied by domestic abuse. It is also not a one-time occurrence, unlike most rape cases. Another reason is that rape by a stranger is almost always understood as rape.

In marital rape, the victim and the perpetrator have a history, which may influence the victim’s reactions. Marital rape is so destructive because it betrays the fundamental basis of the marital relationship, cause it questions every understanding you have not only of your partner and the marriage, but of yourself. This is a man you entrusted your entire life to, with whom you shared your most intimate secrets and fears and who you thought loved you and always wanted the best for you. You end up feeling betrayed, humiliated and, above all, very confused.

Further constant sexual abuse can leave a woman feeling powerless and suffocated in her own home. Such marriages leave a woman in little better position than a prostitute: having unwanted sex as part of a “Job”. In many cases women refuse to identify it as rape, even to themselves. In our culture of hypocrisy, where sex within a marriage is obligatory but talking about it is taboo, women find it difficult to even comprehend that they have a right to say no, that by marrying a man they have not implicitly given him the ultimate rights to their body.

In such a scenario, it is difficult to raise awareness about the issue and guarantee women the right to be safe and respected within their households. The short-term psychological effects of marital rape include feelings of guilt, anger, betrayal, fear, humiliation and denial. The long-term effects include inability to trust, flashbacks and fear of intimacy. SUSTAINING FACTORS In many countries, like South Africa, Bangladesh, Mali etc women consent to have sex with their husbands for fear of being beaten. In these countries it is believed that sex is a husband’s right and he is perfectly entitled to use force to get it.

In one particular survey conducted in Mali, 74% of the women said it is Justified for a man to beat his wife if she refuses to have sex with him. On the other hand, societal attitudes are not much different. We have religious fanatics, societal conservatives and general chauvinists denying the very existence of marital rape. In 2007, when marital rape as sought to be banned in the Bahamas, the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) stated that doing so would be “tragically wrong”. According to the council, sex between unmarried people is subject to consent as they do not have a contract that implies open-ended consent.

As a result, if a couple is married and not separated or divorced, no rape can occur. INDIA Even in India, where we preach sanctity of marriage and adherence to values, the perversity of marital rape subsists. Approximations have quoted that every 6 hours; a young married woman is burnt or beaten to death, or driven to suicide from emotional abuse by her husband. The UN Population Fund states that more than 2/3rd of married women in India, aged 15 to 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. 56% of Indian women believed occasional wife-beating to be Justified.