Marital rape: Law Commission has identified focus groups, pursuing specific deliberations on the issue

The Law Commission is in very much sync with the sense of the House and the sentiments being expressed by the honorable members.

hidden December 06, 2015 10:59:35 IST
Marital rape: Law Commission has identified focus groups, pursuing specific deliberations on the issue

Those who have already jumped into the debate over the socially contentious marital rape issue can hold their guns. Headlines like ‘Centre to bring comprehensive law to criminalise marital rape’ may have sparked off opinions on either side but Firstpost has gathered that there is no urgency in the government to deal with this issue.

What hit the headlines emanated from the response given by the Minister of State for Home Kiran Rijiju in Rajya Sabha during a private member bill moved to this effect by Congress MP Avinash Pande. A senior BJP leader told Firstpost that “private member bills are food for thought. When the House starts deliberating on a private member’s bill the government responds to that situation by saying it would consider the matter or the matter was already in its consideration. The minister concerned backs his statement with some backgrounder to persuade the member to withdraw the bill. In this case the same thing has happened.” Rijiju responded at length assuring that government was looking into all aspects of the matter and the private member bill was withdrawn by the mover.

Marital rape Law Commission has identified focus groups pursuing specific deliberations on the issue

Representational Image. Reuters

A Home ministry official said one has to see and understand the context in which Rijiju responded. Parliamentary debates have to be responded by the minister but this is a complicated matter in which too many aspects have to be weighed before a decision could be taken.

Rape laws cover a husband who rapes his wife who is below 15 years of age. A husband can also be prosecuted if he rapes his wife during judicial separation. Besides, sexual assault is covered as an offence under Section 498A of IPC. All these provisions have not destroyed the institution of marriage. “As per the recent report of National Family Health Survey, as many as 62,652 married women have experienced sexual violence. Sexual violence here includes being forced to have sexual intercourse or perform any other sexual act against one's own will,” another Congress MP Husain Dalwai said during the debate.

If one goes into details of Rijiju’s response it is clear that he didn’t commit that the government would bring a comprehensive legislation but said everything which could persuade the Congress members pushing this private member bill to withdraw it.

The private member bill sought deletion of `Exception 2 of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC)’. Exception 2 says, “Sexual intercourse or sexual acts by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”

Rijiju said “marital rape is very complicated and it is very personal in nature. It is also very difficult to explain and describe the sexual acts between two individuals, husband and wife. These are of such an extreme private nature that neither can there be evidence of consent nor any long lasting record of any evidence of any consent between husband and wife. That is why, as I said, the matter is complicated and very sensitive also. The matter has been dealt in detail through Department-related Parliamentary Committee as well as the Law Commission of India.” He then gave a detailed background on the subject.

Justice JS Verma Committee had given a report on amendments to the Criminal Law in January 2013 and it sought to amend and delete the marital rape exception. However, the Law Commission of India on its 172nd Report on Review of Rape Laws, which was submitted in March 2000, had not recommended criminalisation of marital rape. The Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs also presented its 167th Report on the Criminal Amendment Bill 2012 in Rajya Sabha on 1 March, 2013.

While giving its report, the committee considered the 172nd Report on Review of Rape Laws given by the Law Commission of India, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 and the Report of Justice JS Verma and the committee deliberated the amendment to section 375 of IPC at para 5.9 of the report including the issue of marital rape. It observed, "If a woman is aggrieved by the acts of harassment, there are other means of approaching the court. In India, for ages the family system has evolved and it is moving forward."

Rijiju said “I agree that it is a very dynamic situation; it is evolving also, and the legal system cannot be static. We admit that. The past experience also shows that a family is able to resolve the problems and, under the law, there is also a provision to deal with cruelty against women. It is section 498A of IPC, which specifically deals with the cruelty against women. So, we have a very strong provision already there in the IPC. It was also, therefore, felt that if the marital rape is brought under the law, the entire family system will be under great stress, and, the committee may perhaps be doing more injustice. This was observed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

“In July 2010, then Home Minister P Chidambaram in consultation with the Ministry of Law and Justice had made a request to the Law Commission of India to examine and give a comprehensive report covering all aspects of the criminal law so that comprehensive amendments could be made in various laws, especially, in the Indian Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure as well as the Indian Evidence Act. These three Acts are being dealt with by the Home Ministry. The ministry has asked for “comprehensive suggestions”.

The minister said Law Commission of India also took up the matter for examination in October, 2013. Exactly a year ago “in December 2014, the Law Commission informed us, the Ministry of Home Affairs, that they have identified certain focus areas and formed sub-groups to deliberate on such areas, and, that the commission is actively pursuing the issue and will finalize its views as early as possible.

This is the latest information which we have received from the Law Commission. So, I feel that the Law Commission is in very much sync with the sense of the House and the sentiments being expressed by the honorable members. We also want that the Law Commission should submit its report as early as possible. We have also communicated recently that the comprehensive suggestions may be submitted to us as soon as possible.”

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