A men’s rights group on Monday approached the Delhi High Court seeking to oppose women’s rights groups, which has challenged the exception in law that protects a husband from being tried for the rape of his wife.
A division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal said it would start hearing from Tuesday the pleas of both women’s rights groups and men’s right groups, who are contending against each other on the contentious issue of India’s marital rape laws .
The bench has been hearing petitions filed by NGO RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association and a marital rape victim, challenging the exception to rape under Section 375 and Section 376B as unconstitutional.
The pleas challenge the Indian Penal Code’s Section 375, saying it does not consider sexual intercourse of a man with his wife as rape. Section 375, which defines “rape”, also contains the exception provision which states that the rape law would not apply to assault or sexual intercourse by a husband with his wife over 15 years of age. Section 376B deals with sexual intercourse by a man with his wife during separation.
Seeking to be made a party in the case filed by the women’s rights groups, Men Welfare Trust, an NGO based in Delhi, contended that the existing laws were “very much capable of dealing with the cases of sexual abuse of women”.
The NGO said, “There is no need to either bring a fresh law to deal with it nor there is a requirement to withdraw the protection granted to husbands under Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code.”
Men’s plea argued that “the sexual abuse in a domestic relationship should not be termed as rape”.
On the other hand, one of the petitions filed by the women’s group has also challenged Section 198B of Criminal Procedure Code, which says that “no court shall take cognizance of an offence punishable under Section 376B of IPC where the persons are in a marital relationship”.
Earlier, the central government had told the high court that if marital rape was brought under law, “the entire family system will be under great stress”.