<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A day after the Centre’s pro-marital rape affidavit, in what can be termed as small victory for women rights, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a plea about criminalising marital rape.The High Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a plea by a gender equality organisation.The pleas advocate that rape in marriage must be made a crime on the ground that sexual violence violated human rights.A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar allowed the intervention application by Forum to Engage Men (FEM) and made it a party in the petitions seeking declaration of Section 375 (offence of rape) of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional.The rights group has argued that the IPC Section discriminates against married women being sexually assaulted by their husbands.The latest development will bring some relief for many gender equality groups that had slammed the government for filing an affidavit that supported marital rape.In the affidavit, the Centre had said, “the marital rape cannot be made a criminal offence as it could become a phenomenon which may destabilise the institution of marriage and an easy tool for harassing the husbands.”However, the Wednesday’s decision by the High Court will not only help in furthering the debate on marital rape but may actually force the government to change its stand on the issue.The High Court was hearing the application filed by Dr Abhijit Das, a member of FEM which claims to be a network of organisations and individuals, said wives should not be reduced to objects and supported women’s right for effective decision-making on reproduction.It said that marital rape was an exception in the law that took away the rights of the wives to say “no”, as also their right to say “yes” to consensual sexual intercourse.”Marriage is a partnership between equals. However, men have historically assumed privileges including the privilege of having sex at their instance. Most women have been conditioned to accept that.”The fact that some women have been driven to complain of coerced sex and sexual violence indicates that they are going through extreme levels of violence and coercion and have been literally pushed to the wall,” the plea said.”We believe that in Indian society, a wife will only bring about such a complaint against her husband when there is actual non-consent and she is desperate,” it said.The court has agreed to examine the issue raised in the Public Interest Litigations by the NGOs RIT Foundation, All India Democratic Women’s Association and a man and a woman, who have sought striking down of the exception in the Indian penal law that did not consider sexual intercourse with a wife, not less than 15 years of age, as rape.(With PTI inputs)

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Marital rape a criminal offence? Delhi High Court agrees to hear plea