Ever since India's Union Minister of State for Home Affairs made a statement in the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) saying that marital rape should not be criminalised, Indian media and social networks have been lit up with heated debates.
Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary made the argument on April 30 that marriages are considered as a sacred act in the nation, and thus sexual violence after marriage cannot be considered a crime.
The minister's statement comes as many are arguing for a specific law defending spouses that are victims of domestic sexual abuse.
Currently, as per Section 375 of the legal code, Indian courts do not consider marital rape a criminal offence unless the wife who is the victim of marital rape is younger than 15-years-old. In 1980 when rights activists challenged the law government officials maintained that the marriage contract presumes permanent sexual consent and that criminalizing marital rape would weaken family values in India.
Social media users blasted the minister's statement:
When there is no love in d relationship every sexual act wud feel as #MaritalRape. Be it to a man or a woman Laws can't regulate Love GN
— Deepika Bhardwaj (@DeepikaBhardwaj) April 30, 2015
— Hindustan Times (@htTweets) April 30, 2015
However, other Twitter users were more cautious, criticising advocates of the law and pointing to flaws in the legislation that could open the door to misuse:
Don't trust #MaritalRape Divas. They say they are doing it for you. But most don't even stand up for colleagues in Sexual Harassment cases.
— Ajayendar Al-Adarsh (@ajayendar) April 30, 2015
— Tinu Cherian Abraham (@tinucherian) April 30, 2015
— हम भारत के लोग (@India_Policy) May 1, 2015
Facebook user Jyoti Tiwari also argues that the law should be unbiased and gender-blind in order to protect both spouses against sexual abuse:
Out of five wives every wife rapes her husband at some point at time (physical , financial , mental , emotional and of course legal ) #hangtherapist #maritalrape !
“We get at least 60 per cent cases which are false and motivated but we have to register them and sometimes we feel that because of such cases we are not able to work on the genuine cases as much as we would like.”