Maneka Gandhi


As grand a place as India is, full of its idiosyncratic beauty, it’s also a land of many problematic ideas and beliefs; one of them was reflected in Maneka Gandhi’s statement. The Minister for Women and Child Development recently said that the concept of marital rape, and hence its criminalization, cannot be applied to India because of issues like poverty, illiteracy, religious reasons and the way Indians perceive marriage as an institution. This statement follows on the heels of the minister’s reaffirmation of India being committed to advancing gender equality.

The hypocrisy of Maneka Gandhi’s stance is probably the least problematic thing about the issue. The fact that marriage is treated as a contract for a person to often forcefully demand sex from their spouse, especially in India, makes it all the more important for a ministry that’s supposed to ensure a woman’s rights to recognize the importance of a concrete law in the context of marital rape. It’s not hard to notice the irrational light Indians see marriage in, given that certain sections of the society define a woman by her marital status and that its importance supercedes that of even financial independence and safety. It naturally conditions people to be hesitant about speaking up against abuse that springs out of this supposedly ‘pious’ relationship. Given the societal stigma that’s certainly going to surround someone wanting to complain about sexual abuse in a marriage, having the law on their side could make all the difference- between speaking up and living through an abusive relationship, often between life and death too.

It is important to realise the importance of criminalisation of marital rape in a country where sex outside marriage is generally considered a taboo, which gives rise to a situation where people get married just for the sake of its physical consummation. Maneka Gandhi’s statement and the move of not criminalising marital rape, have essentially endorsed the idea that marital sex needn’t require consent because the partners have entered into a relationship where they no longer have the agency of and control over their own bodies by the virtue of entering into conjugal life. The move also implies that there is nothing really wrong with marital rape. These are dangerous ideas to publicise because it implies that their discomfort with sexual abuse in a marriage is unwarranted. It will only lead to more instances of marital rape, because people cannot legitimise their fears and will hence give in to their partners’ demands.

The minister talks about the sanctity of marriage. What about the sanctity of a person’s body? Marital rape is still rape. It is irrational to relate the concept of consent to marriage, illiteracy, poverty and religion. No relationship in the world warrants the violation of a person’s body and their control over it. Being poor and illiterate cannot be reasons for legitimising rape. There can be no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about rape and consent, no matter what the context is.

 Featured Image Credits: her.yourstory.com

Shubham Kaushik

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We live our lives with so much ease, with little consideration for the creatures around us, who make our living system balanced and worth living. Prominent politician, animal rights activist and environmentalist Maneka Gandhi gave the students of LSR a reality check about their lives and exposed such horrific facts about humankind, that forced students to re- think their moral values and the way they view their daily life. Organized by the Dhyana society of LSR, Maneka Gandhi gave a one and a half hour lecture on Animal Rights, the situation of animals in our country, and the need for a more intense understanding of the protection each and every living being on the earth. Maneka Ma’am began the talk by asking the students a really basic question, ‘Who loves cockroaches?’ To this question no hands rose up! She wasn’t surprised and went on to explain the utility of cockroaches in cleaning up faeces, and how without their existence today, the earth would be a barren land with no life. She also gave the classic example of Mauritius, which lost its teak wood because of the extinction of dodos, and also lost its distinctive Creole culture because of the migration of Bihari labour as the country began to grow other plantation crops after the extinction of the teak tree. It is necessary to realize the need for living in harmony with all creatures, and when human beings exist to fulfil more enlightened activities, they don’t need to indulge in criminal activities like killing animals for leather, polluting river bodies, torturing cows and buffaloes for milk, etc. Maneka Ma’am dispelled many popular myths like chicken soup being good for one’s health, and cow’s milk being the primary source for calcium in the human body. In fact, chicken soup increases the germ count in the body, and cow’s milk breaks down the calcium in our body! Cows and buffaloes were chosen over other animals for providing milk for humans as they are slow, and passive. Daily, hundreds of cows are injected with oxytocin, to stimulate more milk flow, which in fact sends the cow into labour pain twice a day, and the milk derived from the cow actually contains her blood, so the milk we drink daily contains the plasma and red blood cells of the cow it is derived from. Maneka Gandhi also pointed out the loopholes in the Indian judicial system, that allowed criminal offenders to escape. She cited an example of a particular leather factory under the name ‘Moonlight industry’ that was shut down by her when she was the Minister, but it promptly opened the next day under a new name, ‘Sunlight industries.’ Maneka Gandhi’s talk forced all students to re- think their approach towards animals and other beings, and stimulated an active discussion amongst the students regarding vegetarianism, corruption, etc.   Ankita Mukhopadhyay [email protected]]]>