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Orissa High Court Says Sex On The False Pretext Of Marriage Doesn’t Amount To Rape. This Puts Women At A Disadvantage.

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To say women have been dealt a bad hand would be like saying the sky is only a little blue. After living with these ridiculous societal norms for so long, one this is crystal clear- double standards. Women have a whole set of norms they must adhere to if they want to be accepted and one of the major norms is that they mustn’t engage in pre-marital sex. If they do, they are subjected to brutal character assassination and deemed unfit for marriage. It’s the truth that women should only have sex after she is married is drilled into our brains since before we were old enough to understand what it meant. But the fact remains that marriage is often used as leverage for men to coerce women into sexual relations with them, it’s a double-edged sword. And this leaves women at a major disadvantage (no surprise there).

The reason that we are talking about this today is that the Orissa High Court has observed that indulgence in sexual intercourse on the false promise of marriage does not amount to rape. Technically, it sounds correct. If the woman is in a relationship by choice, you can’t called consensual sex within the boundaries of that relationship, rape. However, we barely think it is black and white like this.

In a statement, Justice S K Panigrahi said, “The rape laws should not be used to regulate intimate relationships, especially in cases where women have agency and are entering a relationship by choice.”

Also Read: Bombay High Court Says Consent Acquired By False Promise Of Marriage Amounts To Rape. But This Is A Double-Edged Sword

Justice Panigrahi made these observations on Saturday, while he set aside an order from a lower court and allowed a rape accused, G Achyut Kumar, to be released on bail. Achyut Kumar was arrested late last year after a 19-year-old student alleged that he had raped her on the pretext of marriage.

She claimed that they had been in a physical relationship for four years and that in that time he had impregnated her twice. According to reports, Achyut gave her some abortion pills to terminate these pregnancies. Following her complaint, Achyut was arrested on 27th November 2019 and has been behind bars all this while since his bail application was rejected by the lower court.

He was granted bail when Justice Panigrahi approved his application on the terms that he would cooperate with the prosecution and not threaten the complainant. This application was approved by the HC on the basis that our rape law (Section 375 IPC) doesn’t cover false consent on the pretext of marriage.

In its judgement, the HC also observed that a lot of women hailing from socially disadvantaged segments of society are often lured into sex by men who falsely promise to marry them but dump them as soon as they get pregnant. So, from what I understand it all boils down to intent which is the toughest to prove.

Justice Panigrahi said, “The rape law often fails to capture their plight. The law is well settled that consent obtained on a false promise to marry is not valid consent. Since the framers of the law have specifically provided the circumstances when ‘consent’ amounts to ‘no consent’ in terms of Section 375 of IPC, consent for the sexual act on the pretext of marriage is not one of the circumstances mentioned under Section 375 of IPC. Hence, the automatic extension of provisions of Section 90 of IPC to determine the effect of consent under Section 375 of IPC deserves a serious relook. The law holding that false promise to marriage amounts to rape appears to be erroneous.” We need better rape laws if we want to protect our women from becoming victims.

Also Read: This Documentary About Men Falsely Accused Of Rape Could Be Interesting But We Hope It Doesn’t Take Away From The Real Victim’s Stories

If you think about it, this is a cultural issue. Women are constantly told that sex is only supposed to be had in marriage and they greatly pressured to get married. A norm are aware of and the one that they use to convince their girlfriend to have sex with them. As the judge rightly said, there are errors in the law. It is one form of rape because the man is taking advantage of the woman and while the coercion may not be physical, it definitely is mental. Something that we are clearly brushing under the carpet.

If you take a look through the lens of Indian “society” then you will see that this is a vicious circle. I mean, we all remember the bullshit statement that Maneka Gandhi gave on marital rape, don’t we? She said, “It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors like level of education/illiteracy, poverty.”

So, it isn’t rape when a man coerces a woman into sleeping with him by promising marriage and it isn’t rape either when a man forces himself on you just because he is your husband. Neither of these are “concepts suitable to Indian society” right? Wrong.

I think it’s time we rectify our rape laws and once and for all properly define what consent and false consent means. I think women have been hung out to dry for far too long now.

Andhra Pradesh Clears The Disha Act. Are Other States Waiting For Another Horrific Rape Crime Before They Take Steps?

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