A gender justice debate was instigated after the Central government told the Delhi High Court that turning marital rape into a criminal offence will make men more vulnerable to harassment by their wives. The government’s reply came in as a response to a number of petitions by women organisations seeking marital rape to be legally recognised and penalised by the law.

In an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court, the government claimed that marital rape could be used as a ‘tool’ by the women to harass their spouses. There can be no lasting evidence in the case of sexual acts between a man and his own wife, it said.

As per reports, it has argued for status quo, also saying that making criminalising marital rape would ‘destabilise the institution of marriage’. The matter was highlighted after women organisations demanded that Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the law that defines rape, should be declared unconstitutional.

The organisations argued that the law discriminates against married women being sexually assaulted by their husbands.

For quite some time now, the women organisations had been continuously raising their voices by filing petitions asking the court to recognise rape of a woman by a husband as a criminal act.

Replying to court’s order, the Centre said that it cannot criminalise marital rape as ‘India has its own unique problems due to uneven literacy, economic and social diversity.’

Backing Centre’s stand, the parliamentary panel report claimed that the entire family system will be under stress if marital rape is brought under law.

Commenting on the matter, Governor of Mizoram, senior advocate and husband of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Swaraj Kaushal said that if it is brought under the law, there will be more husbands in the jail than in the house.

He tweeted, “There will be more husbands in the jail, than in the house.” When a Twitter user by the name Amit Choudhary asked Kaushal if he was defending marital rape, the advocate replied, “There is nothing like marital rape. Our homes should not become police stations.”

Following the matter, the Court has also agreed to hear a petition by NGO which is opposing the plea to make marital rape a criminal offence.

In the petition filed, the NGO claims that it represents men who are victims of alleged misuse of gender laws. The petition says a large number of men are “victimised” by women who file “false” cases of rape and domestic violence.