Are men in India culturally superior that they cannot be thought of committing 'marital rape'?
This was a poser to the authorities by the Delhi High Court which said this was a "serious issue".
"There is nothing like Indian and western society. Are men and women different in other nations? Are men in India culturally superior? It (marital rape) is a serious issue and it has become part of the culture," a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said.
The observations by the bench came when it was told by some NGOs, representing men, that there was a difference in culture in India and other nations where there are laws against marital rape.
The court, thereafter, asked the Centre how many nations had laws against marital rape and listed the matter for next hearing on July 18.
The bench was hearing two PILs dealing with an exception in Indian penal law that does not consider sexual intercourse with a minor wife, above 15 years of age, as rape.
The exception in section 375 of IPC which deals with the offence of rape was brought by way of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 2013, which was enacted after the horrific gang rape case of December 16, 2012.
One of the petitioners, an NGO, has claimed that the exception was "unconstitutional and violative of the Right to Equality guaranteed to married women under Article 14 of the Constitution as it decriminalises rape when the perpetrator is the lawfully wedded husband of the victim."
The NGO, RIT Foundation, has claimed that marital rape has been criminalised in almost all major common law jurisdictions throughout the world, including in United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada.
The Centre had defended its legislation saying child marriages were taking place in India and the decision to retain a girl's minimum age as 15 years to marry was taken under the amended rape law to protect a couple against criminalisation of their sexual activity.
The Centre had said that husbands have been protected from prosecution for any sexual act with their wives who are above 15 years of age in view of the "social reality" of child marriages in India.
"Although the age of consent is 18 years and child marriage is discouraged, marriage below the permissible age is avoidable but not void in law on account of social realities," it had told the court earlier.