Condemning each marriage as violent and every man as a rapist is not advisable, Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani on Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha, according to PTI.
She made the comment in response to a supplementary query by Communist Party of India MP Binoy Viswam on whether the Centre had taken note of Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act (which defines domestic violence) and Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (which defines the offence of rape).
“Let me say, to condemn every marriage in this country as a violent marriage, and to condemn every man in this country as a rapist is not advisable in this august House,” Irani said.
Earlier, Viswam had asked a question in the Rajya Sabha on whether the Union government has taken any position on criminalising marital rape. In a written response to the question on Wednesday, the minister said that the matter is sub-judice before the Delhi High Court.
She referred to previous reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee that called for reforming the criminal law through a comprehensive legislation rather bringing about “piece-meal amendments in respective Acts”.
During her address to the Rajya Sabha, Irani said Viswam knows that Rule 47 of the House procedure bars discussion on subjects that are sub-judice. She added that the government’s endeavour is to protect women in collaboration with state governments.
The Communist Party of India leader said in response that he never meant to suggest that every man in the country is a rapist.
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sushil Modi said in the Rajya Sabha that criminalising marital rape will end the institution of marriage, Maadhyam reported. He argued that it would not be possible to ascertain when the wife consented to sexual intercourse, and when she withdrew the consent.
Modi asked Irani to state what the stand of the government in the High Court will be, adding that his advice was to not criminalise marital rape.
The Delhi High Court is hearing a batch of petitions to remove Exception 2 in the rape law under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code. The exception states that forcible sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape, unless the wife is below 15 years of age.
In a written submission to the court on January 12, the Centre had stated that criminalisation of marital rape “could open floodgates of false cases being made with ulterior motives”.
“It will be difficult to determine as to when consent was withdrawn by the married woman,” the government added. “Most of the circumstantial and corroborative evidence will become futile in case of marital rape.”
India remains one of the few countries in the world that does not treat non-consensual sex within marriage as rape.