If you’re someone like me, a person who constantly checks their social media, be it trending reels on Instagram or the newest and most absurd hashtags on Twitter, there is no chance you would’ve missed the latest buzz about a collective group of men striking against, wait for it, the constitution of marriage. To be honest, when I first came across this I was intrigued; Why was there a strike against marriage? But when I began to read articles and trending tweets, I was left shocked and plainly put, disgusted.
It all began on January 20th 2022, when a petition was heard in the Delhi High Court, by All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), a Delhi based Not-for-Profit Organization, regarding the criminalization of marital rape.
As the name suggests, it refers to sexual intercourse with one’s partner without their explicit consent. Disturbingly, it is not considered a crime in our country yet, despite us being well into the 21st century.
Shortly after the hearing of the petition in the High Court, few men began their petition on Twitter in the form of a hashtag, #MarriageStrike. The tweets started pouring in, starting with the Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF), an organization often seen fighting for men’s rights, followed by several other men themselves. Around 66.8 thousand tweets were seen with this hashtag, in the span of just two days, and while many people laughed at the absurdity of it all, others were taking this very seriously.
The rationale behind this absurd hashtag pointed towards how decriminalizing marital rape would lead to increased false accusations of sexual abuse, making the whole institution of marriage an extremely dangerous affair for the male population. What must be noted is that any false accusation of crime or harassment is taken very seriously by the Indian Judicial System and the people found responsible for these actions will be strictly penalized. Time and again, the Court has said that the misuse of law is not reason enough to not implement it. Hence, their argument simply does not compare to the large statistical evidence lined up against the rate of non-consensual sex in marriage.
Another irrational argument was that marriage “entitles” a man to sexual intercourse with his wife. The withdrawal of consent at any given point of time would be a “gross violation of man’s right.” This belief points to an extremely archaic mindset that portrayed a woman as subservient to her husband. It is saddening to see that even today, a large number of men believe that a wife’s prime role is to keep her husband happy, even if it is at the cost of her happiness. Such sacrifices are believed to be part of her duties and putting her wishes aside for the same should be the norm.
According to data from the National Family Health Survey in 2015-16, over 83% of married survivors of sexual violence (between the ages of 15-49) claimed that their current husband was the perpetrator and for 9% of these survivors, the perpetrator was a former husband. Several shreds of evidence even suggest that a woman is 17 times more likely to face sexual violence from her husband than from others. These harrowing statistics are proof enough that a law against marital rape must be implemented in the earliest, to protect women.
The rise of the hashtag has made it blatantly clear that our society is a toxic, patriarchal one and pallbearers of this outdated system would like to keep it that way. Why else would people want to prevent the imposing of a law that would improve the status of women and could even potentially save the lives of several oppressed women? It is unfortunate but true that the idea of marriage in our country is still one where the man says and the woman simply obeys.
Among many, marriage is still considered an institution where a woman’s identity is lost, the husband’s decision is the ultimatum and one where a man’s desire stands above his partner’s consent. It is unfortunate that the people striking against the constitution of marriage, believe that the entire structure of it lies in the power the husband holds over the wife, rather than the trust and faith the couple holds in each other.
While it is better for those protesting against marriage to not disturb the sanctity of marriage’ as their being unmarried saves their partner from the brunt of an oppressive household, it is indeed disturbing to see how many would rather be unmarried rather than be part of a relationship where there is equal give and take of love and respect.
I find it deeply saddening that there are several women out there, who can finally live a better life with the criminalization of marital rape, and yet there are people that stand against it. People that stand against the concept of consent in marriage, because a woman having any sort of choice goes against their beliefs.
Every once in a while, as I’m reading or scrolling mindlessly through my phone and I come across a controversial statement from a person in power or extremely bizarre hashtags/tweets such as this one, content that reeks of misogyny, it gets me thinking if things have gotten any better since before. Have we truly broken free from the chains that hold us back as a society? How long will it take before women are treated the same as men, in all aspects.
It annoys me that after decades of feminism and relentless fighting for our rights, women like myself are left with the burning question: Will the patriarchy ever end?
Written by Medha Somayaji for MTTN
Edited by Shivangi Acharya for MTTN
Featured Image by Megan Margery
Artwork by Anna Parini