India is one of 36 countries that has not criminalized marital rape. In a culture enmeshed with patriarchy, misogyny continues to create unsafe environments for women – including in courts of truth and justice.
India is one of 36 countries that has not criminalized marital rape.
Recently, Justice Sharad Bobde drew outrage of a comment he made in a rape case. He asked the accused “will you marry her?”
The reference was made to the survivor who was 16-years-old at the time of multiple rapes between 2014-2015. The perpetrator "is accused of stalking, tying up, gagging, repeatedly raping a minor school-going girl, and threatening to douse her in petrol and set her alight, to hurl acid at her, and to have her brother killed.”
The survivor's family initially decided not to take the perpetrator to court after his family had promised he would marry the girl when she reaches legal age. However, the accused married someone else and the survivor’s family decided to take legal action.
Marriage does not absolve perpetrators of their actions, instead it subjects women to lifelong abuse. Justice Bobde’s comments show an utter disregard for the survivor’s wellbeing and point to the ingrained culture of protecting abusers. His comments also indicate that rape in a marriage is not rape. This is false and the United Nations has been urging India to change their laws to criminalize marital rape for many years.
The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women... whether occurring in public or private life.”
In response to Justice Bobde’s remarks, a petition calling for his resignation from the Supreme Court of India gathered over 5,000 signatures as of March 2021.
He retired in April 2021, but the legal system remains the same -- when will India’s justice system extend protection to women and girls?