This is the experience shared by a 22-year-old married woman regarding the marital sexual violence she is grappling with Living at Lalitpur,Nepal
I always tried to convince him that I was not interested in having sex. But he would not be convinced and used to force me into having sex unmindful of my mood. What could I do to resist him in such situation, except give up and tolerate?”He thinks that it is the right of the husband to demand sex at any time he wishes from his wife after marriage and he would not be convinced no matter how much I tried to drive home the point. He took me as his slave,” she said adding that her husband would not bother about her feelings, mood and sentiment.”Still I cannot raise my voice. If I talk about this with somebody, it would be disgraceful for me. If the society comes to know about this, then I will be looked upon in bad light. So, because of this only I am compelled to tolerate this injustice,” said this 22-year-old woman.
Not only her, another 21-year-old married woman who hails from the Tarai [the southern plains region of the country], is also the victim of the marital sexual violence. It has been only one year she got married. “If I was literate, may be I could speak out against this kind of exploitation,” she sometimes wonders. But she does not have the courage to speak out against her husband.
“I tolerated all this during normal period; but he would demand for sex even when I had my periods. With whom should I go and share these things? Sometimes I even went to my parents’ house to avoid him, but for how long? You cannot stay at your parents’ house for long,” said this woman from the Tarai. She said in the initial days after their marriage her husband would not force her into having sex. But she found her husband’s behaviour was gradually changing. She said her husband used to watch hardcore sex movies at night and also made her watch, and tried the same methods on her as shown in the porn movies.
“In the beginning I resisted him, but for how long could I stop him? So due to this we were not in good terms. I was fed up with all this. So, presently I have left my so-called husband and am staying at my parents’ house,” she said.
According to the Centre for Research on Environment, Health and Population Activities (CREPHA) , a study carried out showed that 43 per cent Muslim women are victims of marital sexual violence followed by women of the Tharu community at 40 per cent, Tamang community 22 percent and Brahmin and Chhetri community at 20 per cent.
Women suffer from different physical and mental problems due to this kind of sexual violence against them. Most of the women suffering from sexual violence suffer mentally, they suffer from pain in the lower abdomen, swelling of the private parts and pain ,burning sensation in the sex organs ,excessive bleeding and have problems even during pregnancy.
When a 22-year-old Muslim woman shared her problems with other women members of her family, she was told to shut up and concentrate only on household work.She says her problems are far from over. “Neither did I get any consolation nor any treatment when I told them about my problem. When fellow women themselves have such attitude, what do you expect from the male members,” she wondered.
A majority of women suffering from sexual violence from their husbands have taken up various measures for avoiding that. Some 90 percent of women suffering from sexual violence try to convince their husbands that what they are doing is not the correct way and is against their will. Many women even lie about having their period or sleep with their children or sleep in a separate room and fake feeling unwell. But only 49.4 percent among them are successful to protect themselves f\rom the sexual violence of their husbands.
It was found in a study carried out by CREPHA from 2009 to July 2010 that mostly women whose husbands are illiterate, drunkards, have more than one wife and have extra-marital relations suffer more from sexual violence.
Married women could be protected from sexual violence by educating the husbands on gender issues. Various programmes could be brought to promote and improve interaction between wife and husband.
Since only punishing an individual is not enough for addressing the problem of sexual violence within marriage, the policy makers should bring appropriate programmes discouraging the social and cultural habits that increase gender disparity, providing care and support to women affected by sexual violence and punishing the perpetrators.
The Act of Domestic Violence and Punishment has been formulated in 2009 since the planners, policy-makers and researchers have started paying attention to addressing the problem of sexual violence against women after marriage. According to this Act, marital rape is considered a violation of human rights and a punishable offence that carries jail sentence of three to six months depending on the nature of the offence.