CHENNAI: On their wedding night, *Shanti’s husband got drunk and forced himself on her, even though she was not ready. She had to give in then and the torture continued for the next four years leaving her in a state of deep trauma.
“A lot of times, I really get scared to go inside our bedroom, it’s hard to predict his temperament,” said Shanti, a mother of one, who few months ago was forced to get an abortion.
“He never used precautions. When I got pregnant again, he insisted that I get the child aborted as it would burden him financially. So I did, for the second time in two years, and it has not been easy,” she said.
A recent report brought out by the Family Planning Association of India (FPAI)states that of the 1,229 safe abortions carried out between January and September 2015 across Chennai, Madurai and Dindigul, 99.5 per cent of the women were married. In 2014, 1,948 women had availed abortion services in FPAI’s branches across the State, of which 94.8 percent were married.
“There has been a marked rise in the number of pregnancies terminated by married women over the years, but the lesser known fact is that married women do not terminate it due to financial burden alone, many are forced as they have been raped by their husbands and are in no position to raise the child,” said Geeta Sethi, Secretary General, Family Planning Association of India (FPAI), an NGO that promotes sexual health and family planning.
Experts add that most married women who are abused in such a manner end up with chronic depression and trauma, especially if they have had to terminate their pregnancies.
“I have come across cases where women get irritated on seeing the child born out of forced intercourse, they just are not able to love them. They tend to become a recluse, and the women gets branded for that. Nobody wants to talk about it. This scars them for life,” said a renowned psychologist based in the city.
Sumitra* a primary school teacher recalled the night when she came home from work only to be raped by her husband.
“I was married for only seven months then, and did not have a baby, which caused a huge worry for everyone in the family, my husband included. So one day after I came back home, he forced himself on me. I cried for days together after that incident, but nobody bothered,” she said.
According to a study conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) titled-’Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India’, over 9,000 men across the country were interviewed about their views on masculinity and women. 77 percent men said they expected their partners to agree to have sex when the men desired it, and 54 per cent said their partners could not use contraceptives without their permission. Sixty percent of the men admitted to perpetrating at least one form of intimate partner violence - ranging from emotional and economic abuse to physical violence and sexual violence. Of the 3,158 women surveyed in the study, 52 percent said they had experienced some form of violence from a partner in their lifetime. “Where is the question of sanctity in marriage when a woman is merely viewed as a sex object and her opinions do not matter at all? And when rapists are punished by law, then why should married men be treated differently. How does this ensure safety?” questioned Kanimozhi, Member of Parliament, who, in the Rajya Sabha, had last year questioned when the government was planning to make marital rape a crime.
“The problem here is you cannot quantify or characterise marital rape, moreover there is concern that if marital rape is made a crime it might be misused. But that doesn’t mean that just because it is difficult to prove there cannot be a law against it,” said Ajeetha, advocate at Madras High Court.