NEW DELHI: In a U-turn from her earlier stand, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi on Tuesday said the government is considering criminalising marital rape and a decision will soon be made on the matter.
The change in Maneka’s stand came barely a month after she spoke against criminalising marital rape on the grounds that such rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to factors such as level of education/illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs and mindset of the society.
Maneka’s reply in Parliament had angered women’s rights groups and they had termed her remarks as “insensitive, atrocious and ridiculous”. Veena Gowda, a women’s rights lawyer, had argued that poverty or illiteracy cannot be used as excuse for rape. She and others had said the minister’s stand was contrary to recommendations of the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the JS Verma Committee set up after the December 2012 Delhi gang-rape. The committee had recommended sweeping changes in law pertaining to offences against women and had called for marital rape to be made an offence.
At a programme here, Maneka surprisingly made the U-turn on the issue when asked if there is an attempt to push for criminalising marital rape. “Now there is,” she said.