Any sexual overture that is non-consensual in nature can be deemed as sexual assault or rape, and pertaining to the plight of married women, a marital rape is a serious offence. But Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, thinks otherwise.

Addressing the issue of marital rapes in India and how it affects Indian women, Maneka Gandhi, casting aside her much-celebrated recent views, said that the concept of marital rape which is understood internationally cannot be applied in the Indian context.

And in a bid to justify her stance on the issue, the minister said that due to lack of education, illiteracy, poverty, and a myriad of social customs and values in India, marital rape could not be criminalised.

The minister also cited religious beliefs and said that the mindset of the society treat marriage as a sacrament. In her effort to emphasise the role of society in the lawful subjugation of serious criminal offence such as marital rape, the minister seems to suggest that it is not the task of a minister championing women’s cause to stand up and work for the change in the mindset of the society itself.

Maneka Gandhi’s view, specifically on marital rape, is a cause for concern because:

In 2015, she said that marital rape is unacceptable. But today she made the statement that marital rape concept cannot be applied in India.

In 2015, she said that violence cannot be limited to strangers. But today she stated that marital rape cannot be criminalised.

In 2015, she said that marital rape is a man’s need for power. But today she said that society treats marriage as sacred.

The opposition party has condemned Maneka’s stance on the issue of marital rape which is a punishable offence in 104 countries across the world. India needs stringent laws for women which will guarantee them protection even after they tie the knot. Marital rape is an offence perpetrated by the victim’s spouse which can be penalised as domestic violence, sexual abuse and partner rape.