“Shubh Mangalam! God bless the newly married couple!” The family, the priest and the relatives chant these blessings with happiness and fervor on the newlywed couple. By Indian standards, the bride is dressed in a red-lehenga with golden embroidery, stunning red bangles, hair tied in a wad and a dupatta covering it. This is often known as the ‘much awaited day’ in a woman’s life. Her family expects her to live a happy married life with her husband and so does she. A very new and different phase starts in the life of the woman, her husband, and their families because we know “that a marriage in India is not just between two individuals but between two families.”
Sticking to the stereotypical typical Indian culture, it was widely believed (and still is in some places!) that marriage of a woman means she has to give up her life and dreams and live according to the will of her husband and her in-laws. The way she should dress up, the way she should speak and also the times she shouldn’t speak at all will be determined by her ‘new family’. She has to cook food, actually not only food but delicious food; make sure that there is everything in the kitchen; all things are at place; and if guests make a surprise visit, she has to run to make sure that all the arrangements are perfect so that she succeeds in making the best impression of a ‘perfect wife’ and a ‘perfect daughter-in-law’. This is how her life revolves- doing everything to make others happy and satisfied, and to fulfill her role as a wife and an ‘adarsh bahu’. There is no concern about her happiness and in most of the cases even today, she herself is not too concerned about “herself” because this is what she was taught growing up. She is taught to behave in a certain manner and any deviation from this could cost her and her parents their oh so precious ‘izzat’.
Apart from being the housekeeper, a woman is simply seen as an object of sexuality. Why? Because nature has gifted her the ability to give birth. This is a natural phenomenon and is also a source of happiness to the husband, wife and their families. When to have a child is supposed to be the choice of both the partners. Unfortunately, this decision is mostly taken by the husband and his family and the woman has to do as asked because she is “married” and she has no right to decide anything on her part. She may be forced to have a child or even forced to abort it if it’s a girl. A boy is considered to be auspicious and further the family name. Thus, there is nothing a woman can control or stop. She is used as an object to give the family a child regardless of her choice or will. What is even more disappointing is that she, herself, does not find a big problem in this because she accepts this system as it is and even if she is unhappy with it, she finds it ‘wrong’ to question it because she has been socialised in a way that reinforces, “once married, you are the one who has to adjust and even compromise”.
Such a culture and the gendered process of socialization have led to some serious crimes against married women. Believe it or not, if culture gives you something, it also takes from you. Women who are trained to face everything once married are never taught to fight against the wrongdoings of the new family. There are a number of crimes against women but I would like to bring to light one of the most heinous crimes: MARITAL RAPE. Marital Rape refers to the act of sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the consent of the other spouse. It is a non-consensual act of violent perversion, in most cases, by a husband against the wife where she is physically and sexually abused.
This all finds its base in the mind-set of the society that treats a woman as a slave after marriage. Even more disappointing to know is that the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not treat marital rape as a crime. Section 375 deals with the crime of rape, sadly not treating marital rape as a law-breaking act (a crime only if the wife is below the age of 15 years). Any educated and practical person would question that why this kind of rape is not treated as a criminal offense. The orthodox would say that there is nothing called marital rape because once married, a woman has no will or consent of her own, everything is decided by the husband. Forceful sex is used as a way to show ‘male dominance’.
Where is this world heading? The conditions are so pathetic that a woman does not even have the option to report a wrongdoing because the law does not see it as a crime. It will take a long time to change the mind set of our patriarchal society, but as we work towards achieving that change, it is important that the laws evolve, to help all the victims. A comprehensive law against marital rape is urgently needed.
About the Author:
Bio: The City Beautiful enchanted me from the tranquil hills. Any current in society enlightens my ink on paper. I learn Social Sciences at Panjab University with a hope that I’ll be a prodigy of a kind. Writing to me is a blessing in disguise and if you like it, you can visit https://fathomdeeps.wordpress.com