Marital rape is a crime in the US
The roots of patriarchy in society go a long way back. It involves deep seated notions of male superiority and the logic that women, being “inferior” can be subjugated without a second thought, and that doing so, is not a crime. For a significant amount of time, no one rebelled against this thought process. Both men and women accepted that this was the way society functioned and that this was how the laws of the world were. Women were and still are treated with disrespect and disdain, and what is more disheartening is that this is the unfortunate scenario even within a family.
Within a family too, as a lawfully wedded partner, men have been known to take liberties with women just because they think that they can get away with it, as it were. And for a long time they could. And they still can. The most significant and intrusive examples of mistreatment of women within the home space was and still is marital rape. Even someone she called her protector and provider took advantage of her in the name of marriage – and this is a recurrent problem to this very day.
However, eventually, women started raising their voices in protest. Insisting that they were not puppets to be used and thrown away, to be mistreated and unloved or considered to be glorified help in the house. Some rationally thinking men too, joined them in voicing these opinions and the ever rising crescendo of protests finally resulted in the government of various countries sitting up and noticing. The progress was slow, however, slowly and steadily, marital rape was recognized as a crime and a punishable offence. One of the first countries to establish a law against marital rape was the US followed by other countries such as England, Scotland etc. In recent times thankfully, marital rape is considered a crime in most countries, including India, parts of Africa, and parts of Europe etc.
Rape is often considered to be an act of violation by an outsider, a stranger – but what happens when the perpetrator is a member of your own family – your husband? And when that does happen, women choose to remain silent about their plight for the fear of being reprimanded by society and family, who take the husband to be the lord and master anyway. In the 17th century, a chief justice in England had actually written that “[t]he husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife for by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract, the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto the husband which she cannot retract.” This reflects the mentality of men during that time.
Till 1976, marital rape was legal in every state in America. Laws till the 1970s actually included legal codes such as “marital rape exemption” or “provision barring prosecution for the rape of one’s spouse”. Forced sex was considered to be the duty of the wife and only rape by strangers were considered rape or crimes.
The process was long and unending and continued to struggle against prehistoric legalities but thankfully, by 1993, this form of domestic abuse and sexual violence against women was established as a crime and a legal offence in all 50 states if the USA. Thanks to age old notions, these laws might have come into effect legally, but they still took a very long time to implement with the government still treating marital rape with a bias as compared to other rape. Only in about 17 states recognized rape, marital or otherwise, as a punishable crime. Other states treated marital rape differently by penalizing offenders with shorter jail time or allowing bail or even freedom to cases depending on whether violence was used or how soon it was reported etc. Basically, the governments of some states took an exceptionally long time to get used to the idea that men who raped their wives were committing a crime. The fight is still on, in fact, in the US to bring rape and marital rape on the same platform, and though the laws have changed significantly, there is still more work to be done.
Imprisonment is the punishment for marital rape and depending on the severity of the assault, the accused can get a long or short period of jail time, life imprisonment and in some cases, be chemically castrated. If they are released they are labeled sex offender who the law watches out for.