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Rediff.com  » News » Marital rape NOT criminal offence: Parl panel backs govt

Marital rape NOT criminal offence: Parl panel backs govt

March 01, 2013 21:17 IST

A parliamentary panel on Friday supported government's decision not to accept marital rape as a criminal offence, saying it could lead to "practical difficulties".

The Justice J S Verma Committee set up in the aftermath of the Delhi gang-rape incident to suggest changes in the criminal law had recommended that the exception for marital rape be removed from the Indian Penal Code.

"The fact that the accused and victim are married or in another intimate relationship may not be regarded as a mitigating factor justifying lower sentences for rape," the Verma Committee had said.

However, the government did not accept the recommendation in the ordinance promulgated last month. But, it enhanced punishment for sex by husband with his wife during separation without consent from two to seven years.

The standing committee on home in its report on the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 agreed with the view of the home ministry that criminalising marital rape would weaken traditional family values in India, and that marriage presumes consent.

"... it has practical difficulties. If litigations are allowed, then the family system will be disturbed," Committee Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu of the Bharatiya Janata Party said in response to questions.

The IPC differentiates between rape within marriage and outside marriage.  Under the IPC sexual intercourse without consent is prohibited.

However, an exception to the offence of rape exists in relation to un-consented sexual intercourse by a husband upon a wife. The Verma Committee recommended that marriage should not be considered as an irrevocable consent to sexual acts.

The decision to exempt marital rape was fiercely opposed by women's groups. Committee members D Raja of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India-Marxist’s Prasanta Chatterjee gave a dissent note for excluding marital rape from the ambit of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill saying it was contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, which considers all women as equal human beings.

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