Gujarat High Court’s Stand on Marital Rape Exception  

The Gujarat High Court recently made a significant observation, asserting that rape, regardless of the perpetrator being a husband, is unequivocally rape. Disagreeing with the exemption provided under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Court highlighted the global trend of criminalizing marital rape. It cited instances from various countries, including the UK, which abolished this exception in 1991.

The observations arose while rejecting bail for a woman accused of aiding sexual assaults against her daughter-in-law, where the accused allegedly instigated and facilitated brutal sexual acts by her son and husband against the complainant.

 Case’s Disturbing Allegations  

The chargesheet detailed disturbing allegations, including the accused mother-in-law and father-in-law compelling their son to capture nude videos of the complainant, sharing them in a WhatsApp group. The father-in-law was accused of sexually assaulting the complainant while installing CCTV cameras in the bedroom to monitor intimate moments. The accused mother-in-law allegedly knew of her son’s actions, siding with him and her husband, urging the complainant to remain silent.

 Court’s Observations on Gender Violence and Rights  

The Court stressed the application of fundamental rights to both genders, emphasizing the responsibility men hold in averting and combating violence against women. It highlighted the pervasive nature of gender violence, often concealed by societal silence and norms.

 Social Attitudes and Sexual Violence  

Emphasizing the spectrum of sexual violence, from severe acts like rape to subtler forms such as stalking and verbal abuse, the Court condemned societal attitudes that trivialize or romanticize such crimes. Attitudes like “boys will be boys” perpetuate these crimes, causing lasting harm to survivors.

 Legal Stand and Pending Cases on Marital Rape  

The Court pointed out that the accused faces charges under Sections 498A, 376, 354, and 506 of the IPC, highlighting the need for a full-fledged trial to ascertain facts. It declined bail, asserting that the trial court should address any defenses the applicant may present.

 Legal Framework on Marital Rape in India  

Additionally, the news highlighted recent judicial stances on marital rape. The Allahabad High Court acquitted a husband under Section 377 IPC, emphasizing the exemption’s protection when the wife is 18 or older. Conversely, the Delhi High Court presented a split verdict on petitions challenging the marital rape exception’s constitutionality.

 Awaiting Supreme Court’s Verdict  

Numerous petitions are before the Supreme Court, including one against the Karnataka High Court’s decision to prosecute a man for raping his wife. With divergent opinions on the constitutionality of the marital rape exception, the Supreme Court’s eventual decision could have far-reaching implications.

 Laws on Rape in India  

Under Section 375 of the IPC, rape constitutes any non-consensual sexual assault on a woman. However, Exception 2 exempts husbands from prosecution for sexual acts with their wives aged 18 or older, perpetuating the marital rape exception. The  legal interpretations and societal norms surrounding marital rape remains a contentious issue in India, awaiting the apex court’s crucial ruling. The news underscores the urgent need for legal reforms to protect individuals from all forms of sexual violence within marital relationships.

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