The Kerala High Court, on August 6, in a landmark judgement, ruled that marital rape is a good ground to claim divorce. In India, marital rape is not penalized.
A Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath was hearing a set of two appeals filed by a husband challenging the decision of the Family Court.
“A husband’s licentious disposition disregarding the autonomy of the wife is a marital rape, albeit such conduct cannot be penalized, it falls in the frame of physical and mental cruelty,” the Bench observed.
“In this case, the insatiable urge for wealth and sex of the husband had forced the wife to take a decision for divorce. His licentious and profligate conduct cannot be considered as part of normal conjugal life. Therefore, we have no difficulty in holding that insatiable urge for wealth and sex of a spouse would also amount to cruelty,” held the Bench.
The Bench has also observed that the right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity encompasses bodily integrity; any disrespect or violation of bodily integrity is a violation of individual autonomy. This individual autonomy is referred to a state of feeling or condition one believes to possess having control over it.
In matrimony, the spouse possesses such privacy as an individual. Thus, marital privacy is connected to individual autonomy, and any intrusion, physically or otherwise, into such space would diminish privacy.
The court has also stated that “merely for the reason that the law does not recognize marital rape under penal law, it does not inhibit the court from recognizing the same as a form of cruelty to grant a divorce.”
Read the judgement here: marital-rapewatermark-398094.pdf (livelaw.in)