Opinion » Lead

Updated: March 8, 2013 03:36 IST

Our bodies, our selves

Nilanjana S. Roy
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Until we embrace the idea of consent in all relationships, including marriage, there can be no gender equality. Its absence makes discussions on sexual abuse meaningless

The man who was my abuser was a fine host, a good husband, a caring father, a respected elder whose generosity and kindness were as genuine as the fact of the abuse. These qualities were important, because they helped him conceal the abuse he carried out over a period of four years.

As a much-loved older relative, a close friend of my parents, he had unrestricted access to our house, and we visited him often. It was only at 12 that I began to feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know the term “child sexual abuse,” and had no words with which to describe my discomfort with the “games” he played — but I sensed there was something wrong about the silence that he demanded. When I was 13, I left Delhi for Calcutta, to study in that city, and left my abuser behind. But he didn’t forget, and when I came back to Delhi as a 17-year-old, he was there.

Fierce, protective barrier

At 17, I knew now that he had no right to do this to me. When he sent poems, said that despite the four decades that separated us, we were supposed to “be together,” I broke my own silence — but only partly. I told my mother and my sister, and they formed a fierce, protective barrier between me and my abuser.

But the man who had started his abuse when I was nine was still invited to my wedding, because we were all keeping secrets, trying to protect one family member or another. (He was married, with grown children of his own.)

Years later, when my abuser was dying of old age and diabetes, I visited him. There was no space for a long conversation, but I did tell him that I would not forget, even if forgiveness was possible. The silence around the abuse festered and caused damage for years, until finally, in my thirties, the difficult, liberating process of healing began.

If this story saddens you, please think about this: my story is neither new nor rare, nor was the man who abused me a monster, or in any way out of the ordinary. According to a 2007 survey (the largest of its kind in India) conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, over 53 per cent of Indian children have experienced some form of sexual abuse — a slightly higher percentage of boys than girls. I am only one of many.

As I learned to cope with the fallout from the childhood abuse, I made unexpected connections, found good friends, found strong mentors, found help, found my voice again and built a happier, more free life. If I bring up the abuse today, it’s to make a point about the importance of consent in the debate over gender equality in India.

Child abuse survivors are experts in two areas: we’ve taken a masterclass in the toxicity of silence and secret-keeping, and we have doctorates in our understanding of the importance of consent. It can take survivors, like rape survivors of either gender, years to reclaim a sense of ownership over their own bodies. The body is the site of so many violations, starting with the chief one: our abusers did not ask us for permission to use our bodies as they pleased. Children subjected to abuse learn one harsh lesson — their bodies are not their own.

Right to offer or withhold

Over years, those of us who are fortunate enough to find counsellors and healers learn to reclaim our bodies. We learn as adults what children are supposed to know by instinct: we learn that we can be safe in our bodies, we learn to allow ourselves pleasure, to take care of ourselves, and most of all, we learn that we have the right to offer or withhold permission to other people, when they want access to our bodies, our selves.

In December 2012, a violent gang rape in Delhi took the life of a young woman and set off a raging debate over women’s freedoms and rape laws. In all the complex arguments we’ve heard in the last few months in India on rape, violence against women, we have not discussed consent as much as we need to. When we talk about rape, women’s bodies are often discussed as though they were property: how much freedom should the Indian family allow its daughters, wives, sisters, mothers?

Recently, rejecting the Verma Committee’s strong appeal that marital rape be made an offence under the law, the Standing Committee on Home said that (a) the Indian family system would be disturbed (b) there were practical difficulties and (c) marriage presumes consent.

These assumptions expose the toxicity at the heart of a certain view of the Indian family. For marriage to “presume consent,” you must assume that a woman gives up all rights to her body, to her very self, once she goes through the ceremony of marriage. You must also presume that a man is granted the legally sanctified right to access over his wife’s body, regardless of whether she finds sex unwelcome, frightening, painful, violent or simply doesn’t feel like it that day.

Medieval view

This diminishes both genders, in its assumption that men are little more than lustful beasts, unable to restrain their libidos, that women are passive receptacles without desires of their own, forced to submit to demands for sex regardless of what they want. This is a medieval view of marriage and sex, and it is dismaying that Parliament appears to subscribe to it.

What is missing is the key question of consent — the consent of the woman, of any person in a sexual contract. All people — children, women, men — have a right to their own bodies.

In any equal partnership, the only possible basis for sex is on the mutual understanding that consent is an active process — to be offered freely and gladly, to be withdrawn just as freely. Underlying the principle of consent is the equally strong principle of respect; respect for one’s self, as much as for one’s partner. No one should be forced to share their bodies against their will.

On an active, day-to-day basis, consent embraces the idea that any woman or man is free to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a sexual encounter, inside or outside marriage, regardless of whether they are, in the ugly phrase of the courts and police stations, “habituated to sex.”

Child abuse survivors and sexual violence survivors understand instinctively that true respect includes giving all people the right to say ‘no,’ the right to choose when they will be touched, and by whom.

If it is hard for Indian society to understand why everyone should have this right, then perhaps we should start with the basics.

You own your own body. Everyone has the right to live without their bodies being violated. Everyone has the right to demand that you ask for permission before you touch their bodies.

Perhaps in time, Parliament and the government might understand this. Justice Verma Committee and thousands of women trapped in marriages where they do not have the right to refuse sex certainly do understand. (For those who believe that marriage in India is a perfect, unsullied institution, read the statistics: over 40 per cent of women in marriages have reported domestic violence. That’s reported, not experienced. In addition, we rarely discuss the experiences of men who have gone through childhood sexual abuse — currently, the percentage is slightly higher for boys than girls, but men are doubly silenced, by shame and the demands of masculinity.)

From victim to survivor

My own journey from victim to survivor and then to a kind of freedom, took years. Even so, I had less to deal with than many whose stories are reported in Human Rights Watch’s recent study of child sexual abuse in India — no institutionalised abuse, no caste abuse, no extreme violence. In time, I became a writer, a listener, and a collector of stories. The shared stories of survivors allowed me to let go of shame — child abuse was too common and too widespread for that. I also learned that your memories, however dark, will not kill you, or prevent you from creating a better life.

Reclamation happened slowly, sometimes painfully. I was lucky to have the support of my partner, friends and great counsellors. But that journey started with believing that I did have the right to say ‘no,’ that my body did belong to me.

The debate in India over rape laws, particularly marital rape, is about such a simple thing: acknowledging that women (and men, and children) have a right over their own bodies. Why is this being treated as though it were a dangerous or radical idea? In a country that calls itself modern, as India does, it’s time we embraced the idea of consent, in all relationships.

Even though it’s so common — more than half of all adults in my generation of Indians have experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse — few survivors speak about their experiences because of the Indian family’s insistence on silence. That silence transferred the shame of the abuser’s act on to the child, and on to the family; it is powerful and crippling, and it actively enables abuse.

The silence around marital rape is strengthened when the Indian social and legal system refuses even to acknowledge that it exists; for an abuser, and for a rapist, these silences are frighteningly empowering.

Just as children have the right to ask that their bodies remain unviolated by the people they should be able to trust, a woman has the right to say, no, she does not give her consent. Even, and perhaps especially in, a relationship as intimate as marriage.

(Nilanjana S. Roy is a New Delhi-based writer)

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It was saddening to read the plight of the author who had undergone
untold miseries in the name of child abuse. Hats off to her for the
courage shown in coming out of the trauma. Sexual harrassment, child
abuse, molestation, stalking,rape and marital rape are the buzzing
words looming large all over the country. Marital rapes reported are a
few but many go unreported. Men assume that marriage per se confers
all conjugal rights to rule a woman's body. A woman is not a sexual
toy, in a relationship even as a marriage. She, being a human being
first, has every right to get equal respects and regards in all,
including in a relationship with her man, for her role in an Indian
family is immeasurable. The Justice Verma Committee's recommendation
that marital rape be construed as an offence in Indian law has to be
welcomed by especially, every man of the country.

Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 13:41 IST

Completely agree with the concept of "right over my own body". But in the world where we are dependent on each other for our survival and for our happiness too as we are social beings , its not the law but the mutual understanding and respect for other human being would be a right approach.

Education of mind should be the central focus in our schools and colleges and homes as well. More we understand our mind; more we behave well with our surroundings. and let me tell you mam, no-one today teaches us (a boy or a gal) how to channelize and manage our instincts (including sexual) and with time we become sick and start using all hypocrisy to fulfil the desires of our mind. So instead of trying to make society more sick using fear; we must try to understand the reasons of such sick behaviors of ours and make a healthy society which doesn't move with fear but understanding. And this begins with understanding of our own mind and its behaviors. Hope educationists are listening me....

from:  Anupam
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 10:18 IST

Thank you so much for this honest and brave account. I am an advocate for sexual
abuse prevention education. We need to protect our kids by educating them from a
very young age. I am writing a kid's book to do just that: Some Secrets Should Never
Be Kept. Through story we can talk about difficult subjects
with children. Knowledge is powerful and must teach our kids 'body safety' from a
very young age. This topic is no longer taboo. The more we talk aobut it the more we
protect future generations. Thank you for this wonderful piece and making a

from:  Jayneen Sanders
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 08:57 IST

It takes courage to write about something like this when you are a known figure -- bravo for doing so! But I wish you had kicked your abuser's a*se when he was old and ailing. He didn't deserve civil talk.

from:  roshna
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 07:24 IST

Its a thought provoking article. I am praying to god for give you mental and physical strength to write more about reality happening among women.

from:  thanuja thomas
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 06:47 IST

I can understand the sentiments and emotions experienced by the author
to strongly propose the 'Right to own body' and the right to say 'no'
but I don't see a legal space for these rights when it comes to the
institution of marriage. What really matters is the other individual
in the relation understands and respects other's right to own body and
no amount of law can enforce that. This change has to come by changing
the mentality of the generation. If we can educate people to
understand the very basics of human behavior that treat others the way
you want to be treated then we can very well achieve that.
The author also says that one should have the right to give access to
ones body to anyone and take it away any time he/she wants. Well it
may be not her intention but if this translates into law then having
physical relations outside your marriage will be totally accepted by
our laws. I really do not understand what the author is trying to
convey with her article.

from:  Amit
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 02:43 IST

I whole-heartedly support the idea of the criminalization of marital
rape on the simple principle that every human has the absolute right
over his/her body irrespective of age.

from:  Shamanth
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 00:55 IST

A very nicely illustrated article, with sufficient emphasis on
statistics. However, what interests me the most is the fact that the
percentage of boys abused sexually is higher than that of girls. Does
it mean that females in the Indian society have an equal role to play
when it comes to sexual abuse? That is an angle which any of the
authorities - legislative, executive and judiciary - are yet to
examine, but definitely should. If there's a need to spread awareness
about a woman's right to consent, there's also a need to spread the
idea that it is not the men only who are 'sexual beasts' - sexual
tendencies are common to human beings, irrespective of their gender.
That is a perspective which should be more examined.

from:  Arpit Gupta
Posted on: Mar 9, 2013 at 00:49 IST

Excellent articles and piece of story which would definitely be read and understood by everyone.

from:  JAKI
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 23:23 IST

If any wife believes in the concept of marital rape, she should file for divorce due irreparable difference and move on, instead of demonizing the husband. The husband should gladly let her go

from:  karan
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 20:55 IST

We must understand that there is a nuance between consent and
willingness.The women are supposed to give consent as they are the
wives but the 'willingness' has to be also taken care ;the husbands
must understand that they are not always in a willing state;they just
follow suit when they approach them and that is consent but no
willingness at all and many a times that leads to domestic violence.

As far as the legislation issue is concerned ,the argument that the
institution of marriage will be disturbed has some weightage.It is
really difficult to go with any side when there is an allegation of
marital rape inside the bedroom.There is an added fear that the either
of the two can misuse this legislation in their favour.So,the
predicament of the government is also quite understandable.

from:  mohit kumar
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 19:22 IST

The best way forward for us (she or he) is to be tolerant and considerate. Ashu supports westernisation over our filthy culture - but is (s)he aware that western female life is more shattered than Indian women? Rapes (include marital as well) are more frequent there than are in India despite sexual liberation there. If male visits prostitutes (and thus avoid marital rape) - then it is also a problem for wife...So, lets not look at one side only. The right culture has to start from home. Both male and female have to improve on avoiding unnessesary assertiveness. Drop more human...Marital woes will be over.

from:  Avinash Baranwal
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 18:43 IST

An apt article at the right time. I was always wondering, from the day I read about Marital rape in Verma commitee report, how the Government will implement it in Indian soceity as there will be challenges from soceity saying Law is intruding into social structure. However, author has rightly pointed out that, every woman or man has the right to say No and no one but themself has right on their body. But how do we ensure this still remains a big question to the Govt and the soceity.

from:  Srujan
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 18:17 IST

Much discussion has taken place on this topic since the Delhi rape
last December and many women have come out with the stories of abuse.
The author is right when she says more than half of our children have
experienced a form of sexual abuse at some time...

But isn't it time we looked at our culture/customs, where boys and
girls are expected to remain a virgin till they get married? Sexual
maturity is reached in mid teens while most an acceptable marriageable
age is upwards of 23. Is this kind of forced abstinence healthy? Where
is the outlet for our youth who have easy access to porn on their
mobile phones and are turned on by item numbers in cinema halls?

In marriage, mutual sexual satisfaction is required and achieved
through trust and love.. Where does that come in an arranged marriage
or in our homes where kids sleep in the parents bed till they are 18
or where women are perpetually overworked and tired or where women
stop taking care of their looks the day after marriage?

from:  Mintu
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 18:04 IST

(1) It has been proved time and again that traditional family values
of Indian homes are not always good enough to protect children from
sexual abuse. Since stigma is attached to any one who complains of
such abuse, the victim often prefers to keep mum as the author of this
article has narrated. (2) Unfortunately, today our middle class
families are so tradition bound that most of us are scared to even
discuss repercussions of sexual abuse. We rather prefer to avoid the
subject. (3) Although legislation alone cannot reform our society, we
need law too to punish those who indulge in sexual abuse. (4)
Education would not guarantee freedom from sexual abuse till we the
citizens become good human beings ourselves and teach our children to
be so.

from:  Narendra M Apte
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 18:01 IST

The whole idea of "arranged marriage" seems to work against the “abuse within wedlock”. We have embraced some ancient traditional values and in today’s world these traditions seem to be void. Two people are told to live together all of a sudden with no emotional ties. They are asked to love each other when they don’t even know each other. The two indulge in the act and even reproduce, the family celebrates, and yet they may not truly be in love with each other. This makes me think that every act in such arranged marriage situation is a violation. No wonder the law makers feel that wedding implies consent. For an educated person this sounds weird but if we look at the issue from the old tradition point of view we know that the view of the law maker is probably true because this was the purpose of the institution. So to cleanse we need to find a way to tell people to marry the person you love and don’t accept the forceful weddings and of course feel free to divorce when no love is left.

from:  Kamalakkannan M
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 17:47 IST

Nice reply by Mridhula!!! The term 'rape' after marriage, itself is
absurd. If, in case, there is misunderstanding between husband and
wife, better get divorce.

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 17:39 IST

In all the discussion on rape or consensual sex, what goes missing is
how the consent or lack of it is to be proven in law. It does not have
any evidence and relies only on the statement of the aggrieved ( or is
it so?) partner. In law, the statements from both parties to the trial
are to be given equal importance. Law cannot demonize men just because
a woman feels ( or feigns) she has been violated.
Making marital rape punishable by law will certainly destabilize the
institution of marriage. Marriage surely presupposes consent. Whether
the consent is there or not at a particular instant is best left to
the couple themselves, not for the courts to decide. For repeated
violations a wife can certainly file for divorce.

from:  Shivaram Nayak
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 16:46 IST

Very thoughtful and contructive article. It's because a man gets married
to a woman he doesn't have the right to use the woman as a sex object
whenever he wants without the consent of the woman.We should not treat
child abuse as a taboo anymore. Parents should speak to their children
about it and make them aware that nobody should be allowed to touch them

from:  Asokan Suppiah
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 16:43 IST

Those who are talking about right to consent better not to marry or opt
for divorce, It is not possible for the state to keep watch the cases of
rape and consensual sex. when the conviction rate is 27% we can judge
either the judiciary is not functioning well or there are false claims.
and also there is domestic violence which itself is hardly implemented.
rather than debating about these issue better educate people and the
family to develop a healthy environment to child.

from:  karthik
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 16:39 IST

This article is thought provoking and summarizes well except the
author's own story which doesn't fit proper in the context and fails
to create a plot for the real substance.

In the first para where she is saying that all the goodness is
utilized properly as a cover to the abusive act; this is very much a
subject to her own experience.This puts all the goodness of mankind
aside and keeps every individual under the suspicion. This should be
avoided when addressing a mass in general.
The author says that there should be permission taken/granted before
any intimate relationship which looks absurd and if applied in
practice would probably becomes ludicrous.Such scene has been
portrayed in a the movie "Gangs of Waasayeepur",just for pure comedy.

I don't have any intention of subverting the purpose of this article.
Rather I would make an appeal to write more substantial and practical
I strongly feel that the real problem is the deteriorating value
system of our society,not this.

from:  Sunil Singh
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 16:31 IST

Well articulated, but do you really think, making a law on marital rape will make any change in the way society in general or "libidinous men" in particular perceive women? You must not forget that the society is half feminine. Just imagine, we risk opening our bedrooms to Police and courts' scrutiny. can you imagine a woman approaching a court for some marital molestation complaint and staying happily afterwards with the same but "somehow transformed" man. It is better to encourage women to break marriage before the man tries unwanted sex second time with unacceptable vehemence.
I somehow always believe that the contract of marriage needs to re-looked more as a contract of shared individuality between two individuals than a social contract.

from:  Ravi Khanna
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 16:24 IST

"I also learned that your memories, however dark, will not kill you, or prevent you from creating a better life."

Very expressive article. The above line made me think that its not easy for women to come back to normal life. She has every right to create a better life for herself. Lets stop harming her and support her in her tough times.

from:  Pramod
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 15:58 IST

Through this article, the writer, has brought shocking incidents of her distant past into light citing the chain of events very bravely and thus adding much strength to the women voice for complete freedom and the right to be selective on their own will. This article does an eye opener for all the people around the globe which takes us to the day to day abuse of children from their early age when they are hardly aware of the abuse they are inflicted upon. Most of the incident of the child abuse takes place at home at the hands of relatives and family friends. The victim of the sexual abuse,in most cases, does not dare to raise voice and hide it from the family and become tolerant of such abuse as his/her abuser has much respect in the family and considered messiah in the society.
From the very early age of the child when he/she is unaware of such acts, he/she becomes the victim of these sex-abusing-monster.The inability to get out of it end up with suicide...

from:  Sohrab Alam Sherghati
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 15:56 IST

Laudable article by Nilanjana S. Roy it's a sublimal effect indeed provoked the esoteric stories inside every male and a female.

from:  karthik
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 15:45 IST

Very very thought provoking article and every youth has to read to
grasp in individual;s life. Kudos to the writer. Let me admit that I
have never asked consent of my wife and accepted her occasional 'no' in
body game in my 40 years marriage life.

from:  bakulam
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 15:39 IST

Thank you for this article. A discussion on marital rape in India is

There is no question about it: women should have the right to say no.
However, I do not understand how we deal with the false charges that
may arise, etc. How do other countries deal with this? Will their laws
apply to India, where so many women are abjectly dependent on their
husbands through force of family and society? This is not a reason to
stall the process of formulating a law on it, it is simply a call for
an extended dialogue on the process.

I would much appreciate a discussion on this issue, perhaps initiated
by The Hindu, in a public forum. We cannot entrust our blighted
politicians in the parliament with handling a sensitive issue such as

from:  Chira
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 15:18 IST

Marriage in India is a patriarchal ritual enmeshed in patriarchal system. The author is right to point out that consent is as important as intimacy. but for indian women to assert right to consent would require other essentials like property rights, social and educational rights. Its a long struggle

from:  Rajakirubhakar
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 14:51 IST

Superb article on this auspicious occasion of Women's Day. For uprooting this domestic violance and marital abuses being independent
financially can be concidered pre requisite. In the long run if we come up with this financial independence by getting engaged in some kind of job we might be lacking upbring our children so well as we cant devote much time on them. It really need a debate nationwide.

from:  Sundar Hansda
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 14:44 IST

This Marital Rape law thing is 1) not possible or 2) irrelevant. Here's why. Most women in India are totally dependent on their husbands, especially economically. If we want to punish the husband for marital rape, we need to punish him in such a way that the wife does not suffer in the process. Hence, till all women are empowered with education, equal job rights, a willing-to-accept society, etc that allows them to independently run their families after sending the man off to whatever the punishment is for marital rape, till then it is not possible.
And when the woman is indeed independent enough to not need the husband around, well she will just walk out of the marriage anyways and get a divorce. And she will use whatever laws are available (in case there is violence) to get herself justice.
So it is either impractical, or irrelevant, depending on how independent the wife is.

from:  Rajeev Iyer
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 14:41 IST

Reading through some comments about misuse of marital rape lay by women, it is worthwhile noting that all laws can be misused and India is not the only country which will be making marital rape illegal. Marital rape is illegal in several parts of the world, US and South Africa to name some. And marriage is not a defence for any brutality or violence, sexual or non sexual.

from:  Jean John
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 14:27 IST

Although marriageable age for girls is 18 years but as per
section 375 IPC a man is said to commit "rape" who, has sexual
intercourse with a woman with or without her consent, when she is
under sixteen years of age, yet as per exception of section 375 IPC
sexual intercourse with one's own wife above the age of 15 years, does
not amount to rape. Even if she is below fifteen, but above twelve,
the husband - though acknowledged as a rapist, is entitled to a grand
“special discount” in punishment, which may be imprisonment for two
years or fine or both, under section 376 IPC, thereby making the
offence non-cognizable and bailable and no court shall take cognizance
of an offence under section 376 IPC, where such offence consists of
sexual inter-course by a man with his own wife, the wife being under
18 years of age, if more than one year has elapsed from the date of
the commission of the offence, under section 198 (6) Cr.P.C, whereas
as per section 468 of Cr.P.C the period of limitation.

Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:42 IST

Very fascinating and thought provoking article; Thank you !
The idea of consent holds gender equality and freedom. I think We need to discuss more on this topic and propogate too.

from:  Priya Paul
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:38 IST

The best solution for the problem described by the author is not to marry at all. No marriage, no marital rape. How does that sound?

from:  SDS
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:34 IST

[the Indian family system would be disturbed]

Its painful to know that they still talk about "system" when the Lady.. who is called the pillar of the house is suffering every single minute.
and that place is definately not a HOUSE for her.

from:  Mansi
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:26 IST

I agree that mutual consent must be the one and only criteria for
sexual encounter between a man and a woman; to take it further consent
between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a transgender with
another, a bisexual with another, a couple with multiple partners, or
between any two adolescents must be permitted, but the society looks
with horror at any sexual union outside the institution of marriage.
Without teaching the children about various body parts, the reason for
them, the growth, the changes that occur in adolescent ages we
handover some placards and make them go around the streets for "child
abuse" or "AIDS" awareness campaigns. Without giving financial
independence, share in properties, liberal employment opportunity to
lead a life on one's earnings to women we have started the debate on
marital rape. First release the women from the clutches of
domesticated women -mothers,sisters, mother-in-laws,sister-in-laws,
other women relatives and neighbors.

from:  chandrasekaran
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:14 IST

A very well channel of thoughts.A fresh thought in the discussion for the empowermentof women .The point raised "Right over one's own body" is something that everyone needs to understand and respectfully obey,but applying it as a law for marietal rape is not possible.What will be the punishment for this?The same, as it is for rape?And what after the husband comes back to home after spending 7 years in jail.The victimised wife will start living again with an allegedly rapist?If somebody is abused in a marriage he or she can file divorce.And if we want to consider marietal rape under law then the punishment must be divorce with jail.But before framing this law,I would love to know from anyone that how the authenticity of the cases can be checked?I think respect for one's feelings is the thing that we should teach to our children so that our future generations need not dicussing the implement of the same through law.

from:  Sahil Walia
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:11 IST

Every human has the right to have body integrity regardless of being
man or woman.The idea of consent that our body is for ourselves and no
person has the right to access to it, is well acceptable.Presuming that
marriage itself contains self consent is a medieval thought.Increasing
domestic violence against women necessitates to have a comprehensive law
on marital sexual abuse.

from:  Dr Naveen lohar
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 13:09 IST

The problem with marital rape is that it is basically a he-said/she-
said scenario. How is one going to be able to prove beyond reasonable
doubt that a case of sexual intercourse was in fact rape?.. Moreover,
marriages are basically compromises between the man and woman. Many a
times a woman might give consent when she is not in the mood, and
similarly a man might have to make effort when he isn't in the mood.
Is the law going to send one person to jail for that for 7 years?.. To
equate not giving consent one particular day between a husband-wife
with that of a girl gangraped in a bus, is not just Wrong but hugely
unfair!! The Domestic Violence Act already protects married women from
cases of violence, both physical and sexual in nature. Moreover no
woman would register such a case when the marriage is going fine. The
only time when such cases will be registered is when the marriage is
already going down the drain and to settle marital disputes.

from:  Dibyajyoti Das
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 12:42 IST

Good Article..but be it marital consent or otherwise on part of woman,
consent pre-supposes offer and acceptance..In such circumstances are
Indian woman willing to listen offer from their male partner without
being offended and whether a man can make offer without fear of

If consent angle is overstretched sexual western tradition of open sex
shall also be permitted and forget Indian culture, value and

from:  Akhilesh Kumar
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 12:40 IST

Deeply moved !! A real picture of majority girls shown
it is not with class or caste everywhere women are being offended
Yes! any policy cannot change the mindset of men
now Cultural & Traditional renaissance urgently needed!!

from:  sai krishna
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 12:27 IST

On the eve of Woman's day, the Hindu did a great job to publish this
article on woman's sexual violence. The points raised by the author
are quite genuine and must be debated vigourously in society to create
an egalitarian society. We have to understand every point raised here
in proper context. An adult can well fight back and say "NO" to an
aggressor if she wants to, risking censure from the family and
society, but she must raise her voice against the tyranny of the sick
minds. Having said that, I want to ask that, How can a child raise his
or her voice against a person who was supposed to protect him in the
first place. Its a double whammy for the children, not only sexual
violence shatters the trust in the adults but they also become
disillusioned from life at an early stage. the solution lies in not
only sensitizing people about these issues but also teach children to
beware of such "civilized" criminal minds as said by the author,
because these people are found in every society!

from:  Atul
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 11:56 IST

While arguing against martial rape as law, the government made one very valid argument. Now don't trash for pointing this out, Justice Verma committee recommended 7 yrs for marital rape. Now, is the wife willing to send her husband to jail? What happens to the marriage? Will she consent to divorce? Will she take him back after 7 yrs? If he is the sole bread winner how is she going to live? The major problem here is women don't take financial independence seriously. Now, if the women was financially independent, confident of providing for her child, she could walk out and seek divorce under any circumstance. But is she willing? Unless women themselves want to be independent, to provide for themselves and their child, marital rape sadly,will not become a law. Stigma attached to a divorcee, to a unemployed-dependent mother is unbelievable. We all know. Until we uproot sick practices in the name of culture, lack of marital rape law is status-quo

from:  Mridhula
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 10:53 IST

Simply superb and thought provoking article on the eve of International
Women's Day. I think the author has put everything in this article
making a man and a women to understand about mutual respect for each

from:  Pritesh Kumar Lal
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 10:51 IST

Very nice article, I was indeed wondering why this subject of consent
was not talked about in the editorials. I congratulate The Hindu for
publishing it. There simply cannot be second view to this subject

from:  prasad
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 10:48 IST

[the Indian family system would be disturbed]

If this is what it's based on, let it be disturbed to annihilation. Better godless westernization than such filthy traditionalism.

from:  Ashu
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 09:45 IST

Hats-off to the writer that a reality picture, known to the world but
often being treat as ignorance, has drawn before the world. Very
rightly pointed out that consent of human being, while touching there
body is prerequisite. However, there are lots activities, in addition
to what writer depicts, should be done if we want to get rid of child
abuse and rape against women such as ..
1. We must as parent must educate, about each and every body part, our
children how to break silence while they face an abuser.
2 We should have provision of open punishment, later behind bar, for
the abuser before the society to let everybody know the outcome for
such cruel act.

from:  Prasannajeet Mohanty
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 09:28 IST

Excellently written and thought provoking article.

from:  arindam
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 09:23 IST

Really well written. But I would like to especially congratulate the artist, Keshav(?) , who has provided an excellent sketch. It really captured the essence of the article.Rarely is the artist appreciated in these comments. Well Done, Sir.

from:  Naveen VN
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 09:14 IST

The author seems to downplay the process of convicting a man accused of marital rape.
Yes, violence by a man against her wife cannot be tolerated. But how wil you differentiate
between sex and rape inside a marriage? how sure are you tat women won't misuse the
law? And if the husband is an abuser, the women can very well divorce him.

from:  Rehman
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 08:27 IST

If concept of Marital Rape is included in IPC, it will create massive
unintended consequences and may result in major damage to the
institution of marriage, which was developed as societies evolved. A
better solution would be to include It as violence against women and
punish men for harms suffered by Women

from:  Atma Gandhi
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 07:30 IST

I agree with the idea of the article - Women must have the right
to say no. However, I disagree with the view that there must be a
legally enforceable law against "marital rape". Its just
impossible to prove whether what happened inside someone's
bedroom was rape or not. Its in the realm of "he-said/she-said".

If a woman feels aggrieved enough to report a case of "marital
rape" to the police, perhaps she should file for divorce instead.
Would she like to go back to stay with a "rapist"?

We must educate our masses to the idea of seeking consent.
However, we must not legislate in an area that is un-enforceable
and a likely magnet for false cases.

from:  Nerus
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 05:52 IST

This is a wonderfully written piece, that places strong, meaningful viewpoints
without resorting to stereotypes. As the author indicates, sexual intercourse between
adults, whether it is marital or otherwise, has to be consenting, and anything else
should be considered rape. The author's recounting of the abuse she suffered as a
child is all too common in our society. Too often, girls and boys are reluctant to
discuss these with elders due to the wrongful association of shame with the victim.
While the wide level of awareness of these issues that ensures that all parents and
elders encourage children to speak to them about these issues and step in soon
enough to ward off any potential abuse will necessarily take place over a period of
time, it is imperative to immediately implement measures such as having a national
blacklist of child sex offenders readily accessible to law enforcement agencies across
the country, to ensure that such abusers are kept away from our children.

from:  Ram Krishnamurthy
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 05:09 IST

I agree with the author completely....marital rape is definitely bad and
should be prosecuted under law as rape... the biggest thing afflicting
society is the false sense of shame and honor....we judge each other too
much... rather than providing love and support...

from:  nikhil
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 03:30 IST

The arguments made by Ms. Roy are sound to the core. If the points made by her are not considered in current and future debates on women's rights,more precisely, sexual harrasment of women, it is indeed a failure of governance and policy making in our country on multiple counts.

from:  luhar sen
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 01:36 IST

A well written article, and a solid point, right over the body. But who listens to that ..., fool proof laws have to be passed, and the girls and women have to be taught to be aware of their rights. I have a personal experience too in terms of marital, I refused, I got abused, but I fought on and came out as an ex. I won, and also later I got the support from my Mother and society took a step backward and even now trembles at me ..., but then I belong to upper middle class educated family. What about the others ..., confidence in girls and women would do the trick ...,

from:  radha vyas
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 01:25 IST

Dear Mr. Roy,
According to the justice Verma panel if unconsentual sex between husband and wife has been described in the category of rape, what should be the parameter to check authentity of case. It may be misused not all the time but in most cases. If we scrutinily look cases in which wives file rape charges against their husbands,we find that the reason not always the same as said. I have asked the same question to my colleagues by none of them was up to the mark. Could you suggest something???

from:  Awadhesh Atulkar
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 01:25 IST

The issue raised by the author is indispensable and inevitable.Every
human being must have the right to reject, but how to entitle any
individual with it is a tricky question.We have to devise new way to
deal this new question, otherwise the right can be misused.But first of
all,as society we have to accept not only that marital rape exist but
also that making law is not panacea to this curse.Inculcation of values
in our younger ones in addition to foolproof legal system is need of the

from:  Kushagra Singh
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 01:18 IST

Case for marital rape being recognised will become more justified if divorce is also
made easy. Fairer sex cannot have the cake and eat it too. Please make divorce easy
and take off stigma attached to it, just as in West. Then go ahead and embrace the
freedoms in their entirety. On one hand women want the social security Indian
tradition provides and want western style emancipation simultaneously. What a
decent Indian husband often gets is a sexless marriage, at hands of calculative wife,
pretending suffering

from:  M K GUPTA
Posted on: Mar 8, 2013 at 01:06 IST
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