Laws on Marital rape in other countries?

The case of marital rape has been raging for the past several days. On Wednesday, two judges of the Delhi High Court have given a split verdict on declaring marital rape as a crime. The two-judge bench of justices Rajiv Shakdher and C Harishanker gave disagreeing judgements.

While Justice Rajiv Shakdher upheld the criminalization of ‘marital rape’, Justice C Harishankar came to the opposite conclusion. After two different opinions, the matter will now go to the Supreme Court. Till then, know what is the law for marital rape in other countries:

What is Marital Rape and Exemption?

Sexual intercourse with one’s spouse without the spouse’s consent is known as Marital Rape or spousal rape. It is considered a form of sexual abuse and domestic violence. Studies have shown that between 10 to 15 percent of women have been a victim of Marital Rape.

  • Exemption- Section 375 defines rape and lists seven conceptions of consent which, if deprave, would set up the offence of rape by a man. However, the provision contains a crucial exemption: “Sexual intercourse by a man with his wife, and if the wife not being under eighteen years of age, is not rape.”

This exemption fundamentally allows a marital right to a husband who can with legal sanction exercise his right to consensual or non-consensual sex with his wife.

The same exception to Section 375 of the IPC has been challenged by All India Democratic Women’s Association, NGO RIT Foundation and a marital rape victim in Delhi High Court.

Other Countries’ stand on Marital Rape

77 out of 185 countries criminalise marital rape through the law, while 74 countries allow women to file complaints against their husbands. On the other hand, 34 countries do not give any such provisions, according to Amnesty International data.

According to a UN Women report, almost 34 countries in the world had not yet criminalised marital rape, the majority being developing nations.

India is also on the list of that 34 odd countries where marital rape is not criminalised. Other beings are Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Laos, Haiti, Myanmar, Mali, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Bahrain, Central African Republic, Mongolia, Oman, South Sudan, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Libya, Singapore, Uganda, Algeria, Brunei Darussalam, Senegal, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nigeria.

  • United States– From 1993, Marital Rape was criminalised in all 50 states of the US but laws differ from state to state
  • United Kingdom– It has also been criminalised in the UK under the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 and those found guilty could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • Russia– Russia was one of the first countries to remove ‘marital exemption’ in laws on violence against women – this was as far back as 1922.
  • South Africa– Under Article 5 of the Prevention of Family Violence Act, Marital rape has been illegal since 1993 in South Africa.
  • Germany– After more than 25 years of lobbying by women ministers and women’s rights activists – later than in many other developed countries – husband-wife rape was only outlawed in 1997
  • Saudi Arabia– Under Sharia law, Rape is criminal delinquency but marital rape is not considered a crime in Saudi Arabia.
  • United Arab Emirates– The United Arab Emirates’ penal code does not address marital rape as a crime. In a rare incident in 2017, a Dubai court punished a policeman for six months for raping his fiance. During the hearing, the respondent had argued that he had assumed both of them to be married at the time of the offence.
  • Canada– Marital Rape is punishable in Canada under articles 271 & 278 of the Criminal Code.

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