Legal marital rape leads to “destructive attitudes that promote the marital rape,” the judge said.
A man accused of raping his wife in the state of Gujarat, India was found not guilty on Monday. According to the Indian Penal Code, sexual intercourse between a husband and wife, as long as she is of age, is not considered rape — even when forced.
Because India does not have a law against marital rape, Justice JB Pardiwala, who presided over the high court case, recommended that the accused man be charged with sexual harassment and “subjecting a woman to cruelty” instead, the Hindustan Times reported.
The absence of a law against marital rape fosters “destructive attitudes that promote the marital rape,” Justice Pardiwala noted.
While the judge had to rule in accordance with existing laws, he advocated for changes in legislation that would protect women from sexual abuse by their husbands.
“The total statutory abolition of the marital rape is the first necessary step in teaching societies that dehumanised treatment of women will not be tolerated and that the marital rape is not a husband’s privilege, but rather a violent act and an injustice that must be criminalised,” he wrote in his order.
Activists and lawmakers have been calling for marital rape to be outlawed in the country for years, but have yet to succeed in changing the law.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that sex with a girl under the age of 18 is always considered rape, closing a loophole that enabled men to legally have sex with underage girls, as long as they were married. The ruling was considered a major win for women’s rights and children’s rights in the country, but similar protections have not followed for married women above the age of 18.
Instead, the government has fought against efforts to ban marital rape, arguing that doing so could destabilize marriages and make husbands vulnerable to “harassment.”
Though Justice Pardiwala ultimately found the accused man not guilty, his comments highlight the need for legislative change and greater protection of women.