Part 5: Health Problems Faced by Married Women
Miscarriage, vaginal injuries and infection, chronic pelvic pain, muscle pain, disc pain, infertility and urinary tract infections are among the health risks of marital rape. Mental impact of the same ranges from anxiety disorder to suicidal tendency and insomnia.
One third of married women in India have experienced physical, mental or sexual abuse from their partners. Of these, 30% were physically abused while 14% were mentally abused, and 7% were sexually abused by their husbands. One-fourth of women who have experienced physical or sexual abuse have sustained injuries or fractures. But it is alarming that out of these only 14% have approached anyone for help. In the NFHS 3 survey, only 24% of respondents said that they have contacted helplines while the succeeding survey recorded a slump to 10%.
Highly educated 30-year-old Sareena’s (name not real) married life became miserable due to the bisexualism of her husband. Sareena says that one day her husband had told her that he enjoyed having sex with a friend when they were adolescents. Husband used to compel her to anal sex for sexual pleasure. If she refused, he would rape her. Even if she screamed in pain, he would show no mercy. Eventually she had to consult a gastroenterologist as her bowel muscles got loosened after she could not control diarrhea. Realizing that the relationship could not be continued, she returned to her home. But her own family insisted on going with her husband, suggesting that they have girl children to look after.
Forcing women for anal sex creates several health risks for them. “In general, bowel movements need to be tight for the bowel to function properly. But for the women who undergo anal sex, the anus can rupture. It may cause them even to excrement unknowingly” says Niji Justin, a Consultant Gynecologist at Thrissur Co-operative Hospital.
Sudha, a woman from Thrissur became sick because of her husband's lack of personal hygiene. The drunken husband will get up at 4 am and insist on having sex. After the intercourse he won’t allow her to clean her private parts and he will force to sleep with him like that. She got urinary tract infection several times. She started using many anti-biotics. Doctors kept asking the reason for the weak body. Due to the hesitation of telling the doctor, she relied on self-medication. Eventually it affected her kidney through infection. When she finally had a kidney failure, she spoke to social worker Uma Prem about this for the first time. She couldn’t tell the doctors that the kidney failure was the result of her excessive use of antibiotics, painkillers and unhygienic circumstances.
2.1% of women having sex in Kerala have STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections). 4.3% of women have irregular menstruation and other health problems. As per the report of the National Family Health Survey-4, 5.7% of women in Kerala have vaginal sores or abscesses. 9.5% of women have sore or genetic discharge.
Sex during menstruation
Rahmat, a 55-year-old housewife from Calicut has been struggling to cope up with the torture of her husband for decades. She was sexually abused before she completed 40 days after delivering her eldest daughter. She was not spared even during the menstrual days. In those days she will be compelled to oral sex. After her husband’s sexual thrive started getting weakened after he turned 60, he used to finger and her private parts began to swell injuries. When she could not bear those wounds, she sought refuge in the relief Centre. Rahmat had the experience of getting raped before she could fully recover from the effect of delivery.
Sex during menstruation can lead to serious health problems in women. The risk of infection during menstruation is very high. It is a time for women to be more hygienic. Uncontrolled sex in a dirty situation can lead to vaginal and urinary tract infections and other ailments. Genital Warts, Herpes Zoster and Herpes Simplex etc. are certain diseases for women transmitted via unhygienic sex. Forced sex when women are not prepared can also cause such illnesses. According to Dr. Niji Justin men’s extramarital sex can also be reason for women getting Sexual Transmitted Diseases. (STD)
The husband of the woman from a tribal colony in Kodanchery was a ganja addict. She got pregnant again without even a short break. On the 16th day after her first childbirth, husband raped her. She was hospitalized as her vaginal stitches made after the child delivery were broken after the rape. Now the pair has separated from each other.
Excessive sexual intercourse can lead to bone loss and muscle weakness in women. It can cause back pain and joint pain which cannot be cured fully. The Constitution gives every citizen of India the right to have a healthy life. But by not treating marital rape as a crime, women are denied the right to have their healthy life. According to the National Family Health Survey, 4% of women in India are physically abused by their husbands during pregnancy.
What Doctors have to say?
Forced and unhygienic sex can lead to pelvic inflammatory diseases. Because of the close proximity of the urinary tract and vagina, severe infections can damage the urinary tract and later kidney.
It is better to wash the vagina before and after having sex. Women should be advised to take this rinse because they are at increased risk for urinary tract infection. Unhygienic husbands should use condoms while having sex. The lack of cleanliness can be seen as a denial of the right of the partner to have a healthy life. Infectious diseases can cause infertility in women.
As woman get older, vagina gets dry. Hence women's interests and circumstances need to be taken care. The vagina will also dry when she is not ready for sex. This can make sexual intercourse painful. Fractures and cracks may occur. Hurting women despite all these is not a necessity but a crime.
India does not even succumb to UN pressure
India is a country that has signed a treaty by the United Nations Convention against All Discrimination against Women and participated in a convention related to it. The Treaty of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women is considered as the international draft for women's rights. The draft document, introduced in 1981, was signed by 189 nations. Any discrimination or restriction towards women, regardless of whether they are married or not, are crimes under Article I of the covenant. But the exclusion of married women from the definition of rape in IPC 375 is contrary to this agreement. Article 2 of the covenant states that marital rape is also a violation of the rights. The treaty also stipulates that each country should adopt effective legal measures (including crime and punishment, remedies and victims' compensation) to prevent this. The UN has asked India to make marital rape a criminal offense. The government responded telling that marriage is a sacred matter in the country.
According to a 2011 United Nations report, 52 countries view marital rape as a criminal offense. Communist states of the Soviet Union (1960), Poland (1932) and Czechoslovakia (1950) initiated reforms that made marital rape a criminal offense. Countries such as Sweden (1965), Norway (1971), Denmark (1960), Australia, Canada (1983), New Zealand (1985) and Ireland (1990) also have criminalized marital rape. In 2013, Bolivia and South Korea introduced amendments to the law. In 2002, the Supreme Court of Nepal observed that a law which criminalizes the violence against unmarried women and does not criminalize violence against married woman is against the spirit of justice.
Arguments and counter arguments for Criminalization of marital rape
It can be widely misused if marital rape is made a criminal offense.
A lot of laws are misused in India. The agencies should take adequate precautions to prevent it. The generalization of misuse is raised only when it comes to women.
There will be scenario in which only the wife can make decision of whether it is rape or not.
Family matters are important for an Indian woman, which is why despite the large number of sexual exploitations, there are fewer complaints. Therefore, most women will not want to risk their life by filing a false complaint against their husband.
What evidence can be produced of such an atrocity?
Scientific methods should be used to prove whether it is a false complaint or not.
Marriage is like a sacred institution
Such notions should not be built upon injustice to women. If the institution and conception of marriage includes sexual harassment, it should be called subjection rather than marriage.
Instead of criminalizing rape, we need social and moral awareness
All the countries have embraced the idea of retribution from the principle of punishment for offense, its deterrent effect. People do not come to the conviction that it is a crime only through awareness.
Just because western countries have criminalized marital rape doesn't mean India should pursue it. India has its own culture.
Marital rape is not a concept; it is a crime. The culture has to be discussed in the context of a concept. Here we are talking about a crime.
To marry a man is the same as to consent to having sex with him
Dismissing the section 497 of the IPC, the Supreme Court has ruled that a woman has the right to her own body. The court held that the woman is not her husband's property.
All reconciliation efforts without breaking the marriage will be terminated
The rape is an offense. There is no need for reconciliation with someone who commits such offense.
The clause of removing marital rape from IPC 375’s definition of rape should be dismissed. Marital rape should be criminalized.
Comprehensive surveys should be conducted in the state on the issue of marital rape. Many statistics are not complete.
Raising boys in families is a big factor. Gender education should be given to children from infancy. Changes should start from the kindergarten.
Awareness classes are provided exclusively for girls in kindergarten adolescent clubs and forums. The boys also should be sensitized in such platforms. Sex education and the importance of healthy male and female relationships should be included in this.
Marital Rape Help Desks should be set up.
Marital rape is common in India. But the vast majority are not reported. The Joint Woman Programme, an NGO found that one in seven women in India is raped by their husbands at least once. But the law does not give the woman the courage to complain.
Dr. Ambedkar once said about that, “There is a sense in society that the consent of the wife is hidden within the institution of marriage. Not everything will be okay with law enforcement alone. There must be significant changes in the patriarchal society and the male-dominated family system. Once the law is made, it must be ensured that it is not abused.”