How UP’s anti-Romeo squads are harassing random men

Why are random men being trashed on streets by cops?

Recently, India’s largest state by population, Uttar Pradesh (UP), elected the conservative pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) into power. They in turn appointed a man named Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister (CM). This is a state which feminists would describe as a stronghold of patriarchy. They would also describe the CM, Yogi Adityanath, as a bigot and a misogynist. He is an actual member of a Hindu religious order. He is also known for writing essays criticizing Islam, western feminism and supporting Hindu supremacy. In a particular essay titled “Matrushakti: Bharatiya Sanskruti ke Sandarbh mein” (translation: Women Power: In the context of Indian culture), he argued that women should be given equality lest they see themselves as downtrodden and turn to western feminism, destroying the traditional family values (page 3).One would imagine that his reign would bring nightmares to the women of UP. But instead, the first move he made as CM was address the issue of women’s safety by ordering the police to form anti-Romeo squads. This is a state with severe problems like overpopulation, pollution, unemployment, and basic sanitation. Now this supposed bigot and misogynist was making women’s safety his first priority. The feminists couldn’t believe it. They thought he had lost his mind.

The primary aim of these anti-Romeo squads is to patrol and check crimes against women, primarily cat-calling. Roadside-Romeo is an Indian euphemism for a cat-caller, while eve-teasing refers to cat-calling. In UP, these special police patrols planted themselves in and around places where young women frequent, such as university campuses, near schools, public parks, bazaars and malls. Sometimes members of these squads roam around in plainclothes to caught the cat-callers unaware.

The concept of anti-Romeo squads is not new in India, but for first time they’re acting under the directives from a CM. Sometimes when reports of crime against women increase in a district, the police may form such patrol groups. Sometimes citizens also form watch-groups with similar objectives. However, most of the time all these devolve into Taliban-style morality preaching squads. These are frequently used by conservative parents of girls to threaten boyfriends they don’t approve of. They are also used for petty revenge and extortion. The boys caught by them are usually booked under the anti eve-teasing law or IPC Section 509, under which only men can be charged. This law has been misused so much recently that it had a conviction rate of only 10% in 2015 according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

As expected, the anti-Romeo squads in UP have turned to moral policing. They have begun questioning couples hanging around in parks and malls. If found to be unmarried, the couples are subjected to a heavy dose of moral lecturing and quite often the boy is assaulted for leading the girl astray. The girls are usually let off which a warning as they are thought of incapable of any immorality.

The issue was taken to the state High Court which backed the squads and refused to accept what they were doing is moral policing. The feminists have begun protesting these squads. They argue that these squads are causing greater fear among women than cat-callers, as women can be pulled up for merely talking to a man.

However, it should be noted that these conservative squads fashion themselves as gallant rescuers of damsels in distress. The real victims are thus the men who are fined, assaulted and humiliated. The women are sometimes subjected to lectures and held until their parents pick them up, at worst.

In a particular incident, the squad tied up, kicked around and tonsured a 21-year-old man who gave a lift to his female classmate. His ordeal was captured and circulated online for its apparent hilarity by one of the cops. The girl was allowed to leave unmolested. The guy was then charged with illegal assembly of all things. One cannot have a cat-calling charge without a victim after all.

In another incident, 40 overenthusiastic cops raided a private resident only to catch a female student taking study notes from her tutor. They were taken to the police station where they were interrogated by the police to their satisfaction, following which they were released to their family members. The tutor would probably think twice before taking on a female student in the future. He was just trying make an honest living.

Another unbelievable incident occurred when a 18-year-old boy was caught when he was accompanying his female cousin to a shop. They were held at a police station until their relatives arrived. The boy was made to pay a INR 5000 (USD 77) bride to avoid charges. They managed to film the exchange and had to approach a state assembly-man to seek justice.

It is possible that these squads may have prevented some cat-calling, possibly even some cases of rape and schoolgirl grooming. But the question is, is it worth living in a state of constant terror. Everyday police blatantly pick up random boys for hovering around schools, colleges, cigarette stalls, betel shops and even pastry shops for “questioning”. A boy who was similarly harassed told The Times of India, “For them, any young boy in public on a bike is a ‘majnu’ (Romeo).” A father whose son was picked up said, “It is not the police’s job to decide where boys can stand and where they cannot. My son is 19, and is an adult. It makes no sense to call up his father to say that his son is loitering around.” Everyday people keep posting new videos and pictures of young men begin mocked, humiliated and being handed corporal punishment in public. (Although the government has prohibited cruel and humiliating punishments in public, they continue to be reported.)

From all of this, one comes away with impression that this so-called patriarchal government wants to protect women so much that every single man is a potential rapist. Now, more conservative states are copying these so-called crime prevention tactics. Today, Haryana launched a similar program under the name “Operation Durga” (named after the Hindu goddess of war). Under the ongoing scenario, it is prudent for young men to avoid women, even their own relatives, in public for their own safety. They should also refuse to give lift or tell directions to female strangers. This should also serve as an eye-opening to anyone who thinks conservative political parties are pro-men and anti-feminist. They are gynocentric like all the left-wing parties, but have a different way of expressing it.

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Indian woman rants about arranged marriages on Reddit, provides some interesting insights into the arranged marriage system.

Recently on Reddit /r/India, user ibarmy wrote a long rant about the trials and tribunals she was going through while looking for an arranged marriage. By reading the post, one can come to the conclusion that she is upper middle class, well educated, internet-savvy and has some experience in the dating scene. It is also evident that she is in the age range of 27-30, after which her chances of getting married will become much slimmer. Yet, she remains stubbornly picky and entitled. Even her user flair reads “Unicorn ki talaash mein~~” or “in search of the Unicorn”.

She begins by describing how most Indian women (including expats and their descendants) eventually realize that the attention and validation they receive on social network are worth nothing. The men they fancy are not worthy of marriage because they are too “poor” or a “mama’s boy” (meaning they will put their family before their wife). At this point, they begin to fall back on the aid of their relatives to snag up a rich smuck through arranged marriage.

She admits being envious of women who are fair and pretty, with C-cup breasts and taller that 5’5″ (a common Indian beauty standard), as they will be able to hitch up with a workhorse quite easily. She claims that her “manual” is for women who are unable to snag a fish even in a skewed marriage market like India (amid a scarcity of females), despite being willing to pay to large sums of dowry. What she does not realize is that the price of dowry is soaring because women like her are hypergamous and encourage others to be like that. As a result, the top 1% men are able ask for large dowries. She also says that her manual is not for women who want true love as most Indian men are regressive and want “hot kinky girlfriends but nice docile girls as wives”. This accusation is mostly unfair as Indian men are quick to jump into commitment and any ordinary man trying to walk away from a relationship can be easily slapped with a rape charge. It would be more accurate to say that the rich bad boys, for whom they are willing to be kinky, are not willing to marry them.

She then describes how women spend hours at a professional photographer’s studio to get the most flattering photographs taken. Many Indian photographers actually specialize in this pre-matrimonial ad-like photography. These mostly photoshopped photographs are then sent off to fool prospective grooms. It is should be called false advertising by any other name. Then she has the audacity to call it pesky and tiring. She then turns her ire on prospective grooms who do not get their photos taken professionally, and send in selfies or casual photos. If anything, they should be applauded for honesty. The author of the post wonders if men are too busy watching shitty movies on the weekends to go and get their pictures taken.

The subsequent section is dedicated to the criticism of the bio-data the prospective grooms must send in to the bride’s family. This is supposed to be an advertisement of their academic credentials and earning power. The author of the post criticizes them for their bad composition. Interestingly however, she talks only about three types of academic credentials. These are most sought after ones.

The first one is the graduate from one of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). These public-funded universities are considered to be the premier institutions of technical education in India. Every year graduates are snagged from their campuses by recruiters from multi-national firms. The salaries offered to these kids are actually reported as news by national newspapers. India produces only 10,000 of these graduates annually. Given that the IITs have a male-to-female ratio of 10:1, these men make some of the most eligible bachelors in India and among the Indian diaspora. Every year millions of aspirants (mostly male), try to crack the entrance exam. Many among them go ronin for 2-3 years after graduating high school and study everyday for hours at cram schools, only a small fraction of them make it. The suicide rate among these ronins is quite high. It is understandable that most girls won’t be interested in wasting 2-3 years of their youth on such silly pursuits, especially when they are confident (or deluded) enough to think that they will be able to snag one of these sex-starved geeks when they graduate.

The second one is the engineer with an MBA. People who fail to get into the IITs tend to buff up their CVs by adding an MBA. Though the elite Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) are preferred, but any MBA school will almost double the salary of an engineer with some work experience. Several MBA schools have popped up in recent years to cater to this crowd. But in the end your salary is determined by whether you went to good expensive school or a cheap one. Even the public-funded IIMs charge up to INR 2200000 (USD 31,000) for a two year post-graduate course. This obviously requires a loan on the part of most Indians.

The third is the doctor of medicine (not to be confused with dentists or practitioners of traditional medicines). The author admits that she is under a lot of pressure to marry a doctor. This is mostly because India is facing a scarcity of doctors, thus having a doctor in the family would provide quick access to the medical fraternity in these days when getting an appointed can be very difficult. This would also reduce the extended family’s medical bills in this age of soaring healthcare costs, by providing free medical consultations to all her relatives. However, the doctors prefer to marry other doctors, failing which they prefer stay-at-home trophy wives. These wives are expected to hold the fort while the docs are off doing 12-hour shifts and doing private consultations on the side to pay off 10-12 years worth of student loans. (See doctorsmarry.com, a site where gold-diggers go to seek doctors.) This irks the author to no end. (It is doubtful these accomplished men would have time or care to get a photograph taken professionally.)

It should be obvious by now that men with these credentials are as rare as the Abominable Snowman in the crowd that is the Indian marriage market. On top of that, the Abominable Snowman must also of the same sub-caste as the bride. This makes them even rarer. Thus, these rare specimen of the Indian male must be lured with wafts of big wads of Gandhi notes, in other words – dowry. The dowry culture is frequently blamed on greedy men by feminists. But the question is that can these men, who have spent years acquiring these degrees and probably are still paying off their student loans, afford not to be greedy? One may criticize a poor farmer for asking a hefty dowry, but can these men resist themselves a handful when a platter of notes are being offered to them. (Within every sub-caste such a scarcity exists, which allows second-choice men to also somewhat ramp up their values.) The author describes how families sell their properties to pay for the dowry. She may be excused for overstating the value of dowry these sort of men usually require. Most dowries nowadays are given disguised in the form of bridal gifts to the newly-wed couple due to strict anti-dowry laws. Although many smart men nowadays pay for the wedding and avoid taking any form of dowry, even a small amount accepted from the bride’s family can be used as leverage. It is also not unusual for dowry charges to be made up even in cases where none was accepted.

After a groom fulfills all the basic requirements, his and prospective bride’s horoscopes are sent to the family astrologer who then must approve of the match. If the stars align and the match happens, his family is invited to meet the prospective bride’s family and the bride herself. Usually the groom doesn’t attend these initial meetings as the compatibility of the families is more important. The man is expected to be a workhorse, raising kids and taking of the his aging parents. The author describes how to doll-up for these meetings and emphasizes on keeping the makeup balanced – not too ugly and not too slutty. She advises women on wearing clever dresses and contraptions like body shapers to hide the fact that they are fat. Soon afterwards she mocks the grooms who come to the follow-up meetings with balding heads and potbellies. The rotting cadaver of irony can be spotted at this point.

Now she describes how the groom’s family use these meetings to further advertise the man to the point of overselling. (It is not unusual for suspicious women to hire detective agencies to spy on the groom and check veracity of these claims.) She also advises women to set their Facebook feeds to private much before these meetings. She is disgusted by how she is not asked about her academic achievements and instead is asked about her cooking skills and hobbies. The author expresses her dread of becoming an unfortunate trophy wive of a rich smuck.

By the end of the post, it becomes extremely difficult for a man to sympathize with the author. One would think that Reddit /r/India, which is by majority male, would be disgusted and repulsed by the post. However, the white-knights applauded the post and one even bestowed Reddit Gold on the post. Only one user Hades_Lost_Soul pointed out the obvious fact that although the author was portraying herself as a victim who must adhere to high standards to get married, but she herself does not have the self-awareness to see that she holds men to a much-much higher standard. The author doesn’t reveal whether she is an engineer from an IIT or a doctor, to deserve such a highly sought match. (May be she has looks of a divine apsara but it is doubtful, as aspara are not known for wearing body shapers.) A man fulfilling her criteria would do better by marrying an orphan or the daughter of a laborer, he is more likely to receive some gratitude from them, which is unlikely from someone like the author.

A lot of upper middle-class problems described by the author would be solved if women like her were to marry down or marry at par. But unfortunately hypergamy is genetically ingrained in women. They will continued to be kinky girlfriends for rich bad boys and then pine for engineers or doctors in their post-wall years. And these men continue to be labelled as greedy for not marrying down without being lured by hefty dowries.

Man complains to waitress about roaches, gets slapped and charged with sexual harassment

On 25 March 2017, a video clip went viral in India. The video was taken inside a Cafe Coffee Day outlet in Jaipur. Cafe Coffee Day is a large chain of cafes in India. The video shows an ice cream freezer and a male voice could be heard saying that the freezer contains cockroaches and the staff had placed menus on the glass-top to hide it. Then the camera points at a female staffer who is also seen filming with a phone. The male voice says that this particular staff member had shouted at him and told him to stop complaining. At this point, the female staffer rushes towards the camera and the resounding sound of a slap is heard. She could be heard saying, “Why did you take my picture?”

The video was shared and reshared several times on the social media. People complained about the overpriced beverages served at Cafe Coffee Day and their unhygienic cafes. Several vowed that they would boycott the company. Soon mainstream media picked up the story. After the issue was forced into the spotlight, the company responded with the following statement:

“This incident has been brought to our notice and is currently under thorough investigation. The lady team member referred here hails from rural Orissa and is part of the programme run by NGO Gram Tarang to uplift weaker sections of society and girl child specially. She underwent rigorous training on joining us to become a team member and was posted in Jaipur. As per lady team member, she had objected to her video being taken by the customer and her repeated requests were also not heard, thus invading her privacy. Till the time thorough investigation is being done, lady team member has been kept off duty.”

The statement is quite sly because of two reasons. First the company tries to shift the focus from how unhygienic its outlets are to how its social welfare programmes are benefiting the society. Then instead of apologizing of the aggrieved customer, they accuse him of violating the waitress’s privacy. Given the current public sensitivity towards crimes against women in India, this is a very clever attempt to put the ball in their court.

Soon afterwards it was reported that the woman had filed a sexual harassment complaint against the man. In the complaint, she claimed that the man and his friend had threatened to grope her and called her a bitch and a slut. Now the social media has split on the issue whether the woman was actually sexual harassed or not. The fact that there were roaches in the fridge and a man was assaulted has almost been forgotten. The man who is the victim in this case has now tweeted that companies’ lawyers are bullying him so that he would withdraw the cases. He has also tweeted to the Prime Minister’s Office’s Twitter handle requesting intervention in this case of blatant misuse of sexual harassment laws.

2017-03-31 18_26_08-CCD - Twitter Search

How an Indian law brands innocent young boys as sex offenders

Recently, it was reported that a 12 year-old boy from Kerala, India has been charged with sexual abuse after it was found that he had fathered a child with a 16-year-old girl. The birth had taken place in November 2016 but the police were waiting for a DNA report. It may seem obvious to most people that the boy was sexually exploited by the older girl and she got pregnant for not using protection. But the police decided to file a case against the boy under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act, 2012. Here, a probable victim of sexual abuse is being labelled as the perpetrator. However, it is more common that when two teenagers have consensual sex, the boy is charged with statutory rape under this law.

The POSCO Act, 2012 was originally created to protect minors from sexual abuse. The original draft did not criminalize underage sex if both participants were consenting minors. But a Parliamentary Standing Committee changed it before it was tabled. Furthermore in 2013, after the much publicized New Delhi rape case and the panic that followed, the age of consent was raised to 18 from the previous 16. This also increased the number of cases being filed under POSCO Act against teen-aged boys. They were accused of statutory rape even when both participants were consenting.

In a mostly conservative country like India, frequently such cases filed by parents of the girl to protect their reputation. It is better for them that their daughter is seen as a rape victim as opposed to a fornicator. Such parents may pressurize their daughter to claim in the court that she had not consented. It such cases that burden of proof that he is innocent falls on the boy. In India, cases of elopement are also very common because parents do not permit inter-caste or inter-faith love affairs. In such cases, parents of girls frequently report their child as underage to the police so as to acquire their aid in finding their runaway child. When they find the couple, the man is thus charged with rape by the police.

In addition to the POSCO Act, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 says that a minor perpetrator of “adult crimes” like rape, murder, dacoity, kidnapping, drug trafficking and sedition should be tried as an adult. In the recent case, the boy will be presented before a Juvenile Justice Board for adjudication. Since he is 12, he will not be passed on to an adult court. But if he were 16-18, the Juvenile Justice Board may have sent him to an adult court to be tried as a sex offender. If convicted such a boy may end up in prison instead of a juvenile reform home.

A doctor handling the recent case has commented that the boy probably had undergone “precocious puberty” implying that a 12-year-old boy is too young to undergo puberty, basically contradicting most medical texts which say 12 is the age of puberty for boys. This shows that kind of hands in which the now surely traumatized boy is in.

Frequently activists hail the POSCO Act for being gender neutral as it protects both boys and girls, and both men and women can be charged under it. However, it is rarely implemented in that manner. Last year in July, a rare POSCO Act case was filed against a 26-year-old woman for having sex with a 17-year-old boy. The boy had met the woman on the internet and she had lured him to a hotel despite knowing that he was underage. It may have been an extortion scam, such occurrences are quite frequent in India. Later, she filed a rape case against him which the police accepted. But the police were also kind enough filed a rare statutory rape case against the woman too.

Rape “victim” marries accused in prison

On 15 July 2016, a “victim” married the man accused of her rape in Bhubaneswar, India. Since the man is still under trial, the marriage took place inside the prison.

This sort of news is nothing unusual at this point. Increasingly we are seeing reports of women accusing their ex-boyfriends of rape. They claim that they were lured into a physical relation under the false promise of marriage. In India, consent obtained under false pretexts is not considered valid.

You see, although India is rapidly liberalizing, pre-marital sex is still a big deal here for many. So once a man has sex with a woman, many women would expect him to eventually propose. With arising awareness about India’s strict rape laws, many women are finding a convenient legal weapon to enforce this traditional expectation. Pro-men’s rights activist Deepika Narayan Bharadwaj has said, “Everyone is telling women about their legal rights today. It’s blaring out of television, radio, the Internet, advertisements, chat shows, everywhere. This has led to more use and misuse of the law.

It may be true that many men actually entice women into a physical relationship using false promises. But it also traps men in abusive relationships. The burden of proof that consent was obtained lies on the man, while a woman can retroactively withdraw consent after she is dumped.

Back to the woman who married her rapist, she was quoted as saying that she would withdraw the complaint as the man has now married her. The marriage took place with the approval of the additional district and sessions court, so it is unlikely that she will be held responsible for wasting public resources.

She was also quoted saying that she was optimistic about having “a smooth marital life”. I am sure she would, since now she holds the leash to her husband’s collar.

Why very few people want to be called feminist anyone

Is Tanmay Bhat right about feminism? Did Lisa Haydon really misinterpret feminism? Or has Feminism gone from a movement for women’s equality to a misandrist and self-serving cult?

In March 2015, Shyama Krishna Kumar in an a column for the The New Indian Express argued, “Every day, women on the Internet and in the real world are called out for being feminists — labelled as bra-burning, man-hating liberals; when the opposite is true. Feminism is not an attack on men, but an embracing of the fact that all humans are equal, whether they are men, women, transgender or otherwise.” She was advocating the introduction of feminist teaching in Indian schools.

Recently in an interview with the The Times of India published on 22 May 2016, actress Lisa Haydon rejected the label of feminism. She said, “I don’t like the word feminist. I don’t think women trying to be men is feminism. I also don’t believe in being outspoken for the sake of it, or just to prove a point. Feminism is just an overused term and people make too much noise about it for no reason. Women have been given these bodies to produce children, and the spirit and tenderness to take care of people around us. It’s fine to be an outspoken and working woman. I don’t want to be a man. One day I look forward to making dinner for my husband and children. I don’t want to be a career feminist.

next bitch
rega jha

Her personal choice to not be a feminist was highly criticised on the social media. Even several left-leaning newspaper and blogs condemned her statements. Writing for the DNA India, Nirmalaya Dutta proclaimed that, “Dear Lisa Haydon, if you believe in gender equality then you are a feminist“. On Miss Malini, a celebrity gossip blog, Priyam Saha wrote, “Lisa Haydon’s take on feminism is everything that’s wrong with the world“. Urmi Bhattacheryya writing for The Quint said, “Sorry Lisa Haydon, but you know nothing about feminism.

Around the same time, Tanmay Bhat, a Youtube comedian turned TV star, made a rant about feminism on SnapChat. In it he ptoclaimed, “If you believe men and women should have equal rights, that makes you a feminist. That’s it. There’s nothing else.” For his opinion, he got lots of pats on the head.  On the Firstpost, Swetha Ramakrishnan wrote, “Lisa Haydon should take tips from Tanmay Bhat on how not to misinterpret feminism“.

I could find only a few bloggers siding with Lisa Haydon. On The Frustrated India, there is Kalpojyoti Kashyap with his article “Why Lisa Haydon makes more sense than all feminists combined?” A journalist for The Times of India, Piyali Prakash wrote in a column, “Why Tanmay Bhat got feminism wrong“. She argued that she uses various perks offered to women like metro coaches reserved specially for women, thus she is “conveniently sexist”.
So, she asked Tanmay Bhat not to brand her as a feminist without her consent. The article brought outraged women to the comments calling her idiot and stupid.

idiot piyali

 stupid piyali

Despite for all their arguments, increasingly a lot of people worldwide are avoiding the label of feminism. In 2014, the hashtag #WomenAgainstFeminist went viral in US. It was started by women who said that they believe in true egalitarianism, and also supported men’s issues. Some of them believed that feminism censors dissenting views. More recently in January 2016, it was reported that according to a survey in UK, only 7% of the people surveyed called themselves feminists, but 86% of the men and 74% of the women supported gender equality. The survey was done by The Fawcett Society, a feminist charity, which choose to published report under the title of “We are a nation of ‘hidden feminists’“, thus forcing the label of feminism on the very people who do not want it.

Frequently, when faced with criticism of modern feminism, many feminists pull the dictionary argument. In the case of Lisa Haydon, Quartz India wrote, “Perhaps it would help if these celebrities look up the meaning of the word “feminism” before denouncing it.” I am bemused that a movement with millions of proponents and a three hundred year history is reduced to a narrow definition of a single sentence.

Over the years, the feminist movement which can be traced to the Suffragette have taken many forms. However in recent years, it has been taking a extreme form. The symptoms of this mutation can be seen among feminists who advocate putting all men in concentration camps and focus on fatuous and first-world issues like gender roles of video game characters and manspreading instead of real issues which still affects several women worldwide. No wonder more and more people now avoid the label of feminist.

Indian government to stregthen marital rape laws

After a bit of flip-flop, the ruling BJP government has agreed to strengthen the laws criminalising marital rape. In this post, we will examine the legal and social aspects behind this controversy in brief.

Recently, there has been a lot of controversy regarding marital rape in India. The feminist and liberal groups have been demanding that it should be criminalised. The conservatives have been arguing it should not be criminalised.

Some people may get the impression that in India, husbands are allowed to rape their wives. But, it is untrue. The Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code can be used to prosecute marital rape. The Section 498A is typically used to try dowry harassment cases. But it is actually there protect women from “cruelty” from their husbands or his relatives. Here, the broadly-defined “cruelty” may refer to mental or physical cruelty. This, thus, includes marital rape.  Under this law, the maximum penalty is 3 years imprisonment and fine.

Another law, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, explicitly criminalises “physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse” of women. The judge under this law can even evict the man from the shared marital property (which usually means his own house). This law has a maximum penalty of 1 year imprisonment for violating court’s orders and fine. You may have noticed that both these laws protect women only and are not gender neutral. Both of these laws are frequently misused by educated women to threaten their husbands. However, many real victims of marital rape are simply not aware of these laws.

The current cause of controversy is around a particular clause of the rape law, Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code. The Section 375 is the Indian law that defines rape. It has a maximum penalty of life and a minimum penalty of 7 years. But, it has an exception clause, that a husband cannot be tried under this law, as long as the wife is not a child bride under the age of 16. The feminist and liberal groups are demanding that this clause be removed and marital rape be brought at par with general rape. Some of them think that without this, women who are victims of marital rape, will otherwise have no legal recourse. This is untrue as I have already mentioned two laws addressing marital rape above. Thus,  the actual debate is not whether we should criminalise marital rape, but whether marital rape should be punished under the same law as stranger rape.

This exception clause dates back to the British era. In 1889, a 10-year-old girl called Phulmoni Dasi died after her adult husband had intercourse with her. The British set the minimum age of consent to 12. Thus, as long as a bride was above 12, it was not considered rape by the British.  The age of consent was later raised to 16. (Now, it is 18.)

In 2000, the Law Commission had not recommended criminalising marital rape. However, after the 2012 Delhi gang rape, this became a big issue of debate. The Justice Verma Committee in its report had recommended deleting the exception clause. (The Committee had also recommended making male rape illegal, but it was shot down by feminists.) The UPA government passed a stronger law against rape, however decided to leave marital rape laws untouched.

After the BJP government was elected in May 2014, these was little hope of rekindling the debate, as BJP draws a lot of supporters from conservative Hindus. Traditional Hindus view marriage as sacred and don’t like any laws changing its definition. In October 2014, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) reported that 6,590 women in 100,000 were “forced them to have sexual intercourse against their will.” This is a frequently stated statistics on marital rape. (The women’s questionnaire used in the survey looked like this, see question no. 1107).

(I find it amusing that they call themselves the National Family Heath Survey, because they primarily interview women between the age of 15-49. In the 4th NFHS, 625,014 women were surveyed and only 93,065 men. The men’s questionnaire was loaded with questions like “When is a husband justified in hitting or beating his wife in?” or “What do you think a husband should do if a woman refuses to have sex with him?” So, you can forget about getting any data about male victims of  rape or domestic violence from them.)

In April 2015, BJP Minister of State for Home, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary told the upper house Rajya Sabha that, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, the mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament.” This statement led to a lot of angry blog posts, tweets and opinion pieces.

In late April 2015, Preetika Rana writing for the Wall Street Journal trained her guns right at the ruling party with the article “Modi Government’s Reasons for Why Marital Rape is Not a Crime.” In May 2015, Hindustan Times published the article “When no is not an option: Marital rape denies right over her body” by Poulomi Banerjee which cited an UNFPA survey that “nearly one in five women interviewed spoke of having faced sexual violence from a partner in an intimate relationship”. (I couldn’t find the details of the methodology used in that survey.) In June 2015, an opinion piece titled “When even rape is legal” by one Kanika Sharma and Aashish Gupta appeared in The Hindu, which cited the above NFHS data.

In April 2016, Minister for Women Maneka Gandhi said the government was seriously considering criminalising marital rape. This is an interesting move, since in India, men cannot be raped by definition, and the MPs of this very government have blocked a bill to decriminalise same-sex acts, another British-era relic.

I would very be interested in how this law would be designed, as it would have to pander to both the feminist groups and BJP’s right-wing Hindu vote bank. It would probably give a lot of legal firepower to women, as many laws in recent years have (like the dowry laws, domestic laws and workplace harassment laws). These laws are usually designed to be too strict on men and lead to a lot of misuse by sly women. They usually don’t benefit the actual victims, as they are usually too uneducated to know about them. In many cases, the perpetrator is also equally uneducated, for the knowledge of the law to serve as a deterrent. In the end, most of these laws primarily end up as means of legal terrorism against educated men by educated women. There is now a strong need that such laws should be designed such as to prevent their misuse.

I will keep you updated on any news about this marital rape issue.