Is marriage really sacred in India?

The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

The statement by Haribhai Chaudhary, Minister of State for Home, that marriage is considered sacred in India and hence the concept of marital rape cannot be applied here sparked a deluge of angry comments from many.

Let us examine this statement in light of today’s reality. The sacredness of marriage should ideally imply that both wife and husband should be equally constrained to maintain the bond despite persisting problems. That both of them cannot severe the bond at their will and only where exceptional circumstances are proved beyond doubt can an authority (judiciary here) divorce them.

If husband wants divorce, long years of trail await him during which time he is legally obligated to maintain his wife (failing which punitive measures can be initiated against him).  If he’s unable to prove that any of grounds of divorce apply to him, he’ll be denied divorce even after those many years. Even if divorce is granted, he is still obligated to pay the wife maintenance (either permanent or monthly), despite the fault lying with wife and not him. Clearly, the husband is paying for the belief that marriage is sacred.

But aren’t women too, you may ask? All that today’s woman needs to do to arm-twist an unwilling husband to concede to divorce is to whisper ‘498A’. No sane husband can be impervious to a 498A threat, because not just him but all his family members are at risk of being thrown into jail. If a foolhardy husband still does not yield to divorce demand, a complaint by wife and ensuing humiliation of him and his family will put better sense into him. A subsequent case like Domestic Violence Case will ensure that he finally gives up.

Also note that an abusive wife can force husband to continue relation using 498A threat. In many cases, men surrender. In rare cases where unable to endure further abuse man applies for divorce, a malafide retaliation using 498A, DVC etc follows. Isn’t it clear that men are doubly tied to ensure the ‘sacredness’ of marriage?

Clearly women do not carry any responsibility of upholding the concept of sacredness of marriage in India. The entire weight of this ‘sacredness’ is borne by men alone, while women are not only at liberty to shrug off this responsibility any time they wish but are actually rewarded for breaking this ‘sacredness’ through legally-enforced maintenance payments.

The Hon’ble Minister should, instead of taking recourse to this ‘sacredness of marriage’ notion, have responded by saying that already wives have powerful legal weapons at their disposal that punish husband and his family even before trail begins, based on mere complaint with no proofs required. That the existing draconian laws which substitute allegation for evidence have already subjected many innocent men to ‘legal terrorism’, and no additional tools to further harass men are required at this stage.

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