Controversial Judgment: Examining the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Verdict on Marital Rape

  • Aishwarya Ganapathy Saravanan
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  • Aishwarya Ganapathy Saravanan

    Student at IFIM Law School, Bangalore, India

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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ruled that an unnatural sexual relationship with a wife does not qualify as rape and that her agreement is not necessary. This ruling has drawn attention due to the convergence of gender parity, sexual liberty, and marital rights in Indian legislation. Historically, rape laws emerged in Babylon in the 1900s, with the belief that rape could never occur in a married relationship. However, India remains one of the 36 nations in 2022 where a man can legally rape a woman as long as they are in a lawful marriage. The Indian Supreme Court raised the age of consent for marriage from 15 to 18 in 2017, but rape for married women over the age of 18 is still decriminalized. In 2024, the court quashed an FIR under Section 482 of the CrPC, stating that consensual acts between spouses do not constitute an offence under Section 377 of the Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The court argued that "marital rape has not been recognized so far" and that the absence of consent for unnatural acts is less significant in the context of marital relations. The Indian Penal Code defines rape as sexual intercourse without consent, against her will, or by coercion, including intoxication, dupedness, unsound mental health, or under 18 years of age. The concept of marital rape is considered inappropriate in the Indian context, as it undermines equality and discriminates against women based on their marital status. The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) shows that 1 in 3 Indian women aged 18-49 report experiencing marital abuse, while 5%-6% report sexual assault. To ensure legal protection, legislation should recognize rape as a criminal offence, clarify the age of consent, and harmonize domestic laws with international standards. Support for victims should include safe shelters, medical care, psychological support, and legal aid. This is a necessary step towards establishing gender equality and defending fundamental rights.




International Journal of Legal Science and Innovation, Volume 6, Issue 3, Page 1081 - 1086


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