Delhi HC Verdict on Marital Rape

A two-judge division bench of the Delhi High Court (HC) on May 11th delivered a split verdict on a batch of petitions seeking the criminalization of marital rape.

What did Delhi High Court judges say?

  • Justice C. Hari Shankar opposing the criminalization of marital rape said that legitimate expectation of sex is an inexorable aspect of marriage. He upheld the validity of Exception 2 of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • Justice Rajiv Shakdher supporting the criminalization of marital rape said that the right to withdraw consent at any time is the core of the woman’s right to life and liberty. He struck down Exception 2 of Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

However, both judges agreed on granting a certificate of leave to appeal to Supreme Court, as petitions involve substantial questions of law which require a decision from the Supreme Court.

What is the Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) defines the acts that constitute rape by a man. However, according to exception 2 of Section 375 of IPC sexual intercourse by a man with his wife is not rape. According to the act, the wife should not be under 15 years of age. However, in 2017, the Supreme Court increased the age to 18 years.

What are the petitions about?

The petitions before the Delhi High Court challenged the exception provided to marital rape in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The petitioners called the exception unconstitutional because it violated the fundamental rights of women such as the right to live with dignity. The petitions were filed by NGO RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association, and a marital rape victim.

Who opposed the petitions?

An NGO called Men Welfare Trust has opposed the petitions.

Why the petitions were opposed?

It is argued that intercourse between a husband and wife cannot be treated similarly to non-marital relationships, because marriage implies consent.

Is marital rape defined by Indian laws?

No law in India defines marital rape.

How is marital rape treated around the world?

Around 77 countries criminalize marital rape through law. 10 countries including India, Singapore, and Sri Lanka explicitly allow marital rape.

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