The Karnataka High Court's ruling in marital rape litigation on March 23, 2022, was well earned and acclaimed to be progressive and reformist. The single-judge tribunal of Justice M Nagaprasanna said, "A man is a man; an act is an act; rape is a rape, be it performed by a man the 'husband' on the woman' wife'."
The court declined to quell the case of marital rape against the man, in this case, the woman's spouse, and urged him to withstand trial. The trial had reached the High Court after a trial bench took cognizance of the horrendous act under Section 376, which is rape.
India is ranked in some 30 countries in the world that in the 21st century doesn't recognize rape in nuptials as an offense. In most other 150 countries, marital ravishment is criminalized. IPC Section 375 that interprets rape also delineates crucial protection. It says, "Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his wife, the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape."
This implies that a 'no' is not a 'no' or is invalid in nuptials. A man can compel his wife into sexual copulation even without her approval. It is also an aspect of domestic unrest with far more outcomes that are not lawfully recognized or outlawed. A man can release violence through sexual consummation, physically mistreating the woman. Nonetheless, it is still not an offense in India as long as the couple is wedded.
And hence the verdict of the Karnataka High Court was applauded. However, the verdict doesn't suggest that the husband will be penalized or that the decree can be expended in future trials to mold the ruling. The court did not explicitly repeal the marital rape exception as interpreted under IPC Section 375. In a higher court, a plea by the accused is feasible to quell all accusations, especially that of rape, against the man.
Moreover, the single judge tribunal cited the case as a distinct one. The man kept his wife as a sex slave and perpetrated evil acts of sexual violence against her, making it tough to be imitated in other cases of marital rape.
Over the years, several High Courts have held varied views and stances on the issue. In 2021, the Kerala High Court approved a divorce on marital assault, but again it wasn't expended to penalize the perpetrator.
If you think marital rape is unusual and restricted to some cases, then glance at the NFHS-4 data for 2015-16. The poll exhibited that virtually 31% of married women – that is, one in three married women – endured physical, sexual, and subjective violence at the hands of their spouses. The census also revealed that 83% of married women (15-49 years of age) who have ever endured sexual violence said their perpetrator was an existing or previous spouse.
The exception is old and regressive. But the administration of India has still not awakened to the atrocities being meted out on half of the female population. And it will take more than a well-put High Court declaration to bring an end to the horrors of beastly acts.