In Pakistan, there is a grave need to create awareness among the masses about marital rape. The issue is faced by an alarming number of women who are unable to speak up about the abuse they are witnessing at home. According to a report by the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender Based Violence, up to 64% of South Asian women have been subjected to sexual violence at the hands of their spouse or partner.
What men need to realise is that no means no, and a marriage contract does not change that. Marriage doesn’t take away a woman’s right to have bodily autonomy. It is an institution based on the concept of love, respect, and consent and should be treated as such. Unfortunately, due to skewed perceptions and long-standing cultural norms, we have come to normalise the heinous act of marital rape deeming it as a private matter between the husband and wife. We refuse to acknowledge its existence, providing complete impunity to the perpetrators. Women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. Such a mindset only acts to enable the abuser.
With no direct laws to address marital rape in Pakistan, women struggle to find justice. They are made to suffer in silence owing to society’s callous and dismissive attitude towards their misery and trauma. I believe it is high time for us to address the issue and fight for clear legislation for the conviction of marital rape so that justice can be served.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 2nd, 2021.