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Should marital bedposts hang consent forms?
By John B Monteiro

March 1, 2013

I will be master of what is my own;
She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything;
And here she stands, touch her whoever dare.

 - William Shakespeare, English dramatic poet (1564-1616) in Taming the Shrew.
What a fall husbands have to suffer in relationship to their wives – a journey from ownership to equal partners, with some laws giving wives a handle to blackmail their husbands. Backing the long-standing demand of the women’s activists that marital rape be considered as an offence, the Justice J.S. Verma committee has said marriage or any other intimate relationship between a man and a woman is “not a valid” defence against sexual crimes like rape.

The three-member panel, which was constituted to recommend amendments to criminal laws in the wake of the national outrage over the December 16 gang rape in Delhi, has sought “an exception for the definition of marital rape in the existing laws.” “The law ought to specify that marital or other relationship between the perpetrator or victim is not a valid defence against the crimes of rape or sexual violation,” the committee said in its report. The committee said the “relationship between the accused and the complainant is not relevant to the enquiry into whether the complainant consented to the sexual activity and the fact that the accused and the victim are married or in another intimate relationship may not be regarded as a mitigating factor justifying lower sentences for rape.”

Quoting various court judgments in different countries, the panel said “the exemption for marital rape stems from a long outdated notion of marriage, which regarded wives as no more than the property of their husbands.” “Our view is supported by the judgment of the European Commission of Human Rights in C.R. versus UK, which endorsed the conclusion that a rapist remains a rapist regardless of his relationship with the victim”. “According to the common law, a wife was deemed to have consented at the time of the marriage to have intercourse with her husband at his whim. Moreover, this consent could not be revoked,” the committee said.

The defendant cannot argue that the complainant’s consent was implied by the relationship between the accused and the complainant, the report said. In South Africa, the 2007 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendments Act (Sexual Offences Act) provides that marital or other relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is not a valid defence against the crimes of rape or sexual violation. “Even when marital rape is recognised as a crime, there is a risk that the judges might regard marital rape as less serious than other forms of rape, requiring more lenient sentences, as happens in South Africa. In response, the South African Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act of 2007, now provides that the relationship between the victim and the accused may not be regarded as a ‘substantial and compelling circumstances’ justifying a deviation from legislatively required minimum sentence for rape,” the report said.

It is also important that the legal prohibition on marital rape is accompanied by changes in the attitudes of prosecutors, police officers and those in society more generally. Citing the example of South Africa where, despite legal developments, rates of marital rape remain shockingly high, the Verma committee report points out that a 2010 study suggests that 18.8 per cent of women are raped by their partners on one or more occasion. Rates of reporting and conviction also remain low, aggravated by the prevalent beliefs that marital rape is acceptable or is less serious than other types of rape.

This takes us to the background to the subject of declining ownership rights of husbands over their wives. All religions accept the sanctity and permanence of matrimony. Take, for instance, the prayer recited at the solemnisation of Christian matrimony: “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish till death do us part”. It was to be a life-long bond. Another version of this prayer had “love and obey “tilted in favour of the bridegroom. Now, the “obey” has been deleted and it is “cherish” for both.

Despite wives being considered properties of husbands, marriages worked, any internal conflicts not coming into the open or landing in divorce courts. But, all was not so cozy and rosy, with many marriages vitiated by the deviant behavior of the spouses. Robert Burns, Scottish poet (1759 – 1796), in his The Hen Pecked Husband, says:

Cursed be the man, the poorest wretch in life,
The crouching vassal, to the tyrant wife,
Who has no will but by her high permission;
Who has no sixpence but in her possession;
Who must to her his dear friend’s secret tell;
Who dreads a curtain lecture worse than hell.
Were such a wife fallen to my part,
I’d break her spirit and I’d break her heart.
That freedom to break her spirit or heart is an old privilege. Now, laws in India would put the husband in prison should he contemplate such a misadventure. A series of laws seem to pose the danger of overprotecting the wives and driving the husbands to desperation. In the bargain, the law makers seem to have forgotten that, like one needs two hands to clap, interaction between the spouses is central to the working of matrimony – good, bad or indifferent.
There is a saying that an Englishman’s home is his castle and no one can intrude into its privacy. Similarly, the matrimonial bedroom was considered the most private sanctuary of the couple. It is not only the pleasure chamber but also the reconciliation retreat – to kiss and make up. Only books like Kamasuthra or sex manuals could keep company of the spouses in their matrimonial bed.
Now things have changed when Domestic Violence Act, got Presidential approval on October 25, 1006. For the first time, it introduced the concept of “Invisible violence” at home – physical and verbal abuse, withholding of financial rights and sexual cruelty. Denial of company, indifference and abstinence from sex are legal grounds for divorce. She can cite “marital rape” as ground for divorce. In other words, she can turn around and say that she had not consented to the sex she has had with her husband. This is the intrusion of law into the bedroom. This might lead to the farcical situation of having consent forms hung from bedposts in the marital chamber and separate lockers to store the signed forms. Sexual foreplay may have to start with the signing of consent forms and keeping them safe from subsequent destruction.
This Act is preceded by a succession of Acts and court rulings that have made life miserable for men. They are now vulnerable to blackmail by wives threatening to take recourse to the anti-male laws. There has been strong reaction to this trend and men have banded together under the banner of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Males – with a women as President!. But, that is another story for another time.

John B. Monteiro, author and journalist, is editor of his website
www.welcometoreason.com (Interactive Cerebral Challenger) with instant response format. His latest book Corruption - India’s Painful Crawl to Lokpal, priced at $21.50, has been published in USA by Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co. Further details can be had from Google by keying in “John B. Monteiro”, which features the website created by the publisher for his book and the press release on the book.


Comments on this article
shreya, delhiWednesday, March 06, 2013
Gender bias or blame game won't help! Complete justice to people affected is need of the hour #implementJVCReport
Comment on this message     

Preethi, Wednesday, March 06, 2013
I completely agree with CW, Mangalore/USA....

Why the Law enacts any Law? without any strong reason or Case, its impossible.
To safe guard some women from the atrocities of cruel men, this act/law has come into action.

Domestic Violence act has been saved and saving many women/girls from Mental, Emotional, Physical harassment of partner or any family member.
Such ACTS/LAW's are most required to protect women in India - this woman can be OUR sister, mother anyone.
Yes its true that,Women should never make use of such Acts to abuse partners.

Promises meant to be broken (general - GADE MATHU)

Lets Not Blame Each Other, rather - Support one another to find Justice . . . !!!
Comment on this message     

Atheist, Mangalore/ DubaiTuesday, March 05, 2013
Dear Ms. jacintha, Mangalore. I appreciate the way you have written this comment and highly admire your writing. It made my day and I was all laughs.

But I dont agree with your view point. You have too much generalized the issue as Mr. Bhandarkar said
Comment on this message     

Desmond Mathias, UdupiMonday, March 04, 2013
They say " marriages are made in heaven " but in reality " it is fought on earth "
Comment on this message     

Roshan Braganza, Mumbai / UdyavaraSunday, March 03, 2013
@ CW mangalore / USA , for your kind information 'marital rape' clause is rejected by goverment of india. We are not ruled by feminists and goverment stand is welcome . Suicide cases are rising among married men , go threw statistics . Also false cases going exponential , there is political will to make even dometic violence bill gender neutral and draft new bill like SIMA ( saving men from intimate terror act )
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CW, Mangalore/USA Sunday, March 03, 2013
A family that prays together, stays together. Love and mutual respect in a marriage are the graces from our Heavenly God which he himself bestows upon the couple when they unite in the Holy Matrimony.
Indeed, millions of women of earlier generation(s) have suffered in the hands of barbaric husbands. Most of them in the hands of Alcoholic husbands. This law is a fitting tribute to all those women who have come and suffered before us. This Law is not a tool for misuse by women of current or future generation. There might be few who misuse it but a large number of women will benefit from it if the marriage should turn a living hell under a man who is both physically and mentally abusive. Women should take advantage of this law only and only if all else fails, ie., spiritual counselling, financial mentoring and mediation from sound minds within the family and community. Ultimately God judges our intent and blesses each one of us according to our thoughts and deeds.
Comment on this message     

R.Bhandarkar, M'LoreSaturday, March 02, 2013
Dear Jacintha
Ha Ha Ha Asking Why? 'Cause of your revealing the Universal Truth (!)that men are always thirsty! What for? A Pint or a Peg?
Further-What is not theirs-they grab(!) and rape(!)and if something is theirs....Ho- Maa-Can't stop laughing! But why M'am this 'wild' generalising? Are we that 'bad' and 'deadly' according to you?
Sir- Roshan Braganza- Where are
Monterio Sir- Aamee Dharmaak Mele!
Sakdaank Maarle- Gevun Ekath Mhole!
Comment on this message     

jacintha, MangaloreSaturday, March 02, 2013
This needs a debate :'What led to this state of affairs - ie the legal framework to enter the bedroom'.

If the marriages were really healthy, both partners, more so the woman, was respected, then I don't think the need for a law would have been felt.

One can still take heart - as the author cites the South Africa record. Inspite of a law, nothing would happen.

I don't think a womanjumps out of bed to file an FIR, everytime she is touched. In that case, the men population would have dwindled big time, she being in the kitchen, she could have created havoc for men. She never needed the law.

Educated and the elite men in society too, are barbaric in the bedroom, if their thirst is not met. And it is universal truth that, MEN are always THIRSTY.

What is not theirs, they grab and rape, and if something is theirs, what can stop them?

It is sad state of affairs, that for the sin of earlier men, the future men will be doing penance, but it is true that, all has not been fair inside the bedroom.

People are not imagining things, in the counselling sessions, unbelieavable incidents come to light.

Please men, be gracious and say, if it happens, yes, let the court enter the bedroom. By defending the bedroom privacy, you are being party to the crime, that the law is trying to prevent.
Comment on this message     

Tom Cat, Mangalore/ LondonFriday, March 01, 2013
There will come a time when one will have to take a legal opinion before marriage. So that one is not effected by these laws.
Comment on this message     

Antony D'Cunha, Permude/MuscatFriday, March 01, 2013
An indepth review of modern bedroom story vis-a-vis current wives' friendly laws that can work against husbands. By this development wives will not only tame their husbands but also blackmail them very often.
Comment on this message     

Roshan Braganza, Mumbai / UdyavarFriday, March 01, 2013
The so called 'marital rape ' clause is rejected by goverment panel in the bill to be tabled in parliment . Age of consent for marital relationships to remain at 16. Very interesting article by auhtor and should be appauded for being real and sensible facts. For once menare wondering whether they live in same india or is it hijacked by feminists or women activists. Adding to mens agony sexual harrasement bill had been passed ( not gender neutral as only women can file FIR) , now its getting tougher even at office. Women are getting more reservations too. As in article domestic violence has been done enough damage already ( interstingly it also worked against women itself , prosecuting mother in laws , sisters ) and looks like more to follow . Men rights groups also with save family foundation working hard to bring men issues into politics , but there is no will yet. It looks as if democracy nailed and failed men , it will take time to be aware and rise . Untill then change of citizenship is one of idea. ........./.... Coming back to issue of equall rights among couples , polygamy was legal untill late ninteenth century for christians , feminists thoughts creeped in and its banned . Now they are demanding priesthood for women. I also have to mention how shariat which gives impeccable rights to men still going strong all over world and peaple ( specially men ) are getting attracted towards it . Its also sets age of puberty as age of marriage , which give more sanctity to marriage.
Comment on this message     

R.Bhandarkar, M'LoreFriday, March 01, 2013
Bole Yaa Na Bhole...
Raaz ye Khole Ki Naa Khole...
Chule Yaa na Chule...
Man Mera Dhole Dhole...
Kyaa Ho Ra hai Holle Holle....

Monterio Sir...
The above were 'poetic cliches' of
'damsels in stress'as to how to 'open out' and confess their love to their beloved! This in fact was the scenario not long ago, say just 3 decades back! Times have changed and how! Times Now often sees 'damsels in distress'and lawmakers 'skirting' across law books to make inferences to make
'statutory rulings'.'Humane qualities, 'Emotions' are given the go by to tackle some cases of 'exception' and 'judgments' delivered in these cases become 'milestones' or path breakers.These as you rightly pointed out become a 'tool' sometimes in the hands of the dangerous and the perverted.Really with situations as envisaged and the likely scenarios of the future described by you, wonder what the world is coming to?
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