Fifty Shades of Patriarchy: Marital Rape in India

satish acharya
Cartoon by Satish Acharya

“Not all men are the same”. This is an argument we come across every time a woman shares her experience of sexual oppression or exploitation. While men rush to defend their “beloved” or “prestigious” gender, women continue to fear when they see a shadow on the streets at night. It is obvious that there are exceptions and not all men would have a similar mindset.

However, defending your gender instead of recognising the larger problem of rape culture perpetuated by men, is a clear reflection of male ego. Unless men recognise their privilege and understand the problems associated with it, we won’t even attain gender safety, let alone gender equality.

While there are several laws to protect unmarried women from rape, the Indian patriarchal setup, judiciary and government refuses to accept that married women can be raped by their own husband. When women can’t trust men in a workplace or any other public domain, how can they bestow trust and complete faith in their husbands? We all know about the increasing domestic violence cases in India and the subsequent laws to protect women from it. This implies that the law recognises the vulnerability of married women within the household. Thus, if a husband can abuse his wife physically or mentally, why can’t he rape her?

The institution of marriage in India is mostly considered to be an agreement between the bride and the groom’s family, according to which after marriage, the bride automatically becomes the self-proclaimed property of the groom. Patriarchy in India is so barbarous that men don’t feel the necessity to seek consent from their partners before having sex. Moreover, marital rape in India is the proverbial “elephant in the room”. It is because, only when the wife is under the age of 15, is forced sex in marriage considered a crime under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). As a consequence, under the IPC, marital rape is not considered to be a crime.

The above cartoon was published against the backdrop of a judgment passed by the Chhattisgarh High Court in which it ruled that sexual intercourse by a husband is not rape, even if it’s by force. The larger question is, if 150 nations of the world can criminalise marital rape, then why can’t a country which worships over a hundred goddesses, declare it to be criminal offense? (Wings Daily News Staff) The cartoon demolishes the “sacred image” of marriages in India and portrays the dark reality of most men after marriage. 

Radical feminists assert that in order to abolish the male-dominated institutional hierarchy, women must “seize the means of reproduction” by refusing to marry and bear children. Advancing the argument made in the beginning of this article, the most important principle that men must value instead of defending male chauvinism with the infamous “not all men” excuse is that consent is not a privilege, but an inalienable right. A woman irrespective of who she is in relation to someone, has a right to say “no”.  Issues like marital rape are much more than “domestic” or “private” issues. They are larger issues of the nation as personal is always political.  


  1. Wings Daily News Staff. “Marital Rape Crime in 150 Countries but 32 Countries Including India Do Not Accept It Crime – India Hindi.” Wings Daily News, 5 Feb. 2022,


Riyan Buragohain

Riyan is a debater, writer, and public speaker who firmly espouses intersectional feminism. He has the experience of participating in and chairing several Model UN conferences across Assam and has worked with NGOs such as Girlup Guwahati, Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Destination Heritage, Jeevan Jagran Foundation, and Little Umbrella Foundation. His areas of interest include international relations, domestic politics and government, and gender studies.


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